UNSUNG HERO: Pope County teens build a park for the Village of E - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

UNSUNG HERO: Pope County teens build a park for the Village of Eddyville

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EDDYVILLE (WSIL) -- Children in Eddyville now have a place to play outdoors thanks to a group of teens. The Pope County High School senior and freshman classes joined forces to build Pirate Park. It's through a program called Hometown Heroes which is in its second year.

"It started with just a small idea. Now we have a whole park for the whole community," said Pope County High School senior Abby Thompson. 

For years, parents had to take their kids to either Harrisburg, Dixon Springs, or Golconda for the nearest park. But not anymore, thanks to the peer mentorship program offered at Pope County High School.

"We wanted to give them a place to come and be safe and have fun and play in the community where they could walk and not worry about transportation issues," said Thompson.  
The Hometown Heroes program pairs the outgoing seniors with incoming freshman. The two groups spend the entire year working on a civic project together.

"We made a lot of new friendships and we all connected very well," added Pope County High School senior Abby Clanton.

Last year the groups placed unique metal trashcans along the levee in Golconda. This year they decided to go bigger.

"We know that we wanted to do something with recycling and that's where actually the benches and the rubber timbers came from that are around the playground," said Pope County High School senior Natalie Bonnell.    

About 75 students were divided into various committees. One of the major challenges was the cost to build the playground.   

"The pirate ship was built by a man from Legacy Oaks Group named Bob Eaton. We paid one standard price for the pirate ship and he built it, shipped it and it included everything," said Clanton.   

The group needed $20,000 to get the playground built. They put their heads together and came up with the idea of donation levels of bronze, silver, and diamond.  

"Our diamond level is $1,000 or more and at first we were kind of like, this is kind of pushing it. No one's going to want to donate $1,000 to us, and we ended up having five diamond sponsors," said Clanton.   

They also set out cans and created a Go Fund Me page, giving them a grand total of more than $21,000.

"Seeing all the community members not only locally, their was also a few other businesses and establishments that weren't extremely local that donated, that was just beyond amazing and we just feel so blessed," added Natalie. 

Some of that money also helped them remodel the basketball court. 

"Nothing is impossible as long as you get the right kind of help and you have an idea and the drive to do something and want to be good in the world," said Thompson.   

The girls said this project taught them that you're never to small of a school or community to do big things. The students say the Hometown Heroes program gives them job skills, shows them how to research, teaches teamwork and public speaking.

All the sponsors' names are on the park sign.

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