August 18, 2008


Volunteers building Homer exercise course at school 

Fitness Trail

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer  
Homer volunteers, from left, Kevin Douglas, Joel Mercer and Mike Yonta drill post holes Saturday for fitness equipment being installed at Homer Elementary School for a fitness trail under construction.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Joel Mercer aimed a powerful augur machine into the ground behind Homer Elementary School’s playground and began drilling. When he stopped, two other volunteers pulled rocks from the hole.
“Maiden voyage,” Mercer said when asked Saturday if he had ever operated such a device.
About 15 parents and teachers from the school district gathered to map out the spot where they are building a Playworld Systems exercise course for use by children and adults. They marked spots for 20 holes in an area measuring 15 feet by 60 feet that will be covered with 6 inches of stone and topped with mulch.
The crew on Saturday also assembled the fitness equipment.
The course will have places for push-ups, sit-ups, leg lifts and beam jumps (jumping over a beam), with a warm-up station at one end and cool-down station at the other.
“This is to help kids combat obesity,” said Mercer’s wife, Beth, Homer Elementary’s Parent Teacher Organization president. “It’s for people living in rural areas and not having many resources for family fitness.”
The course will be dedicated to Barbara Wood, a physical education teacher at the school for more than 30 years who retired in June.
Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers donated $5,000 for the exercise course. The money was a grant under the store’s Toolbox for Education program. Beth Mercer said other area businesses donated. Contento Construction excavated the spot, Homer schools provided the mulch, T.H. Kinsella Quarries in Fayetteville donated the crushed stone and Welders Warehouse in Homer provided gloves.
“I called Kinsella to order the stone and the staff there said they were trying to do more community service,” Mercer said.
The group tackled the task of measuring where to drill and how to set up each exercise station. The only engineer among them was Patrick Clarke, a mechanical engineer at Pall in Cortlandville.
Asked why he gave up a sunny Saturday to work at the site, he said, “My wife.” He said he and his wife, Nhia, have a child at the school and two others who attended the school.
Mike Yonta, another volunteer, said the Mercers recruited him but that he was glad to help. His four daughters all went to the school. He said his youngest, Tessa, will be in third grade “but can still enjoy this.”
Work on the fitness exercise course continued Sunday as nearly 30 volunteers poured concrete that they used to set posts to install the equipment and signs. The project is expected to conclude Tuesday as volunteers spread landscape stone, fabric and mulch from 5 to 8 p.m. The organizers are asking for more volunteers with shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows.


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