"Aikahi Playground would not have been built without the help and assistance of Greg
Thielen." -Bill Pierce, Aikahi Elementary PTA board member
Over the Presidents Day weekend back in 2009 a community came together and built a playground. 360 US Marines and Hundreds of parents and community volunteers constructed the Aikahi Elementary School Playground. The story and the efforts started
long before that day going back to the removal of the old playground structures in the summer of 2008. No one person can lay claim to this project as it was a community effort and I am proud of the role I played in that effort. It started simply enough. A group of Eagle Scouts decided their project would be to complete the demolition of the
old playground remnants left behind by the State. As I knew the family of one of the
scouts and I wanted to help with the new playground, I volunteered my services to assist.
I organized donations of a roll-off container and paid for my employees to train, monitor
and assist the scouts. The group Friends of Aikahi Playground took notice and invited
me to a planning meeting.
In that meeting I quickly saw a flaw in the plans of this ambitious building project. While the vertical constriction was well thought out, the earth work was not. It was clear to me the site would require extensive grading, placement of a large sand cushion barrier and close to 100 holes 12 inches in diameter and 3 feet deep. The idea was that volunteers would do this by hand. As a builder that has remodeled and built homes in Aikahi I know the soil there to be a difficult clay material as opposed to the sand you see in much of Kailua. Even with the impressive number of volunteers I knew this was going to burn up most of the allocated build time before any vertical improvements were made. So once again I went out to my building industry contacts and got equipment and material donated. I then paid for my employees to install a drainage system, grade the area including placing the sand cushion and excavate the roughly 100 holes for the playground structural posts. When the volunteers walked into Aikahi Elementary that Presidents day weekend, they walked into a perfectly prepared, flat and level sand pad with every hole in place in the right spot. They were able to step right into the vertical construction without a thought for the earthwork needed.
While that could have been the end of my involvement with the playground as fate would have it I was called on a third time. About a year after the playground was completed, I was asked if I would become “chair of the playground maintenance committee”. What this meant is once a month I would clean the playground. Sometimes by myself, more often with volunteers. We would pressure wash the structures, use an industrial yard vacuum to suck up all the monkey-pod tree droppings and do simple repairs and upkeep. I served in this capacity for a little over a year and was also responsible for pouring the slabs for the concrete tables and benches that were added a couple years after the original build.
I did all of this because I care about my community. I didn’t want notoriety or
recognition. I was in the right place and at the right time to see the needs of the
community and how I could fill them. I want to bring this same style of leadership to the
City Council. I want to solve problems without regard to who gets the credit. Others
may want to smile and wave for the cameras. I’d rather be laying the groundwork for
positive outcomes in our community, just as I did at the Aikahi Playground.