Volunteers rebuild Mount Joy playground destroyed by arsonists

MOUNT JOY, Pa. (WHTM) – More than 800 volunteers came together this week to help rebuild something they lost. Kids’ Joy Land was destroyed in 2012 by arsonists. Volunteers have been working for three years to rebuild it.

“I’m going to sit back there at that tree and just watch,” Ed Bartakovids, one of the general coordinators of the playground, said.

Bartakovids has been waiting for the new playground for three years.

“My personal favorite, that I played with when I was a little kid is the sand scooper. And it’s right over there.” Bartakovids said.

It was originally built in 1993 by the hands of many working to rebuild it today.

“I remember it had so many great places to play hide and seek and that was definitely my favorite part about it,” Molly Gerhart, who remembers the old playground, said.

But where old memories stand. A new playground sits in its very spot.

“It was a really great place to play and to meet people and meet up with people. You could let your kids run around and you didn’t have to keep track of them every single second,” Erin Gerhart, a volunteer, said.

And that’s when it happened.

“I was about four blocks from here at home in an apartment building. And when the explosion went off I could feel and hear it. I felt the whole building shook. I didn’t know like maybe a bomb went off,” Donald Hostetter, a volunteer, said.

Kids’ Joy Land was destroyed by arsonists in 2012.

“You knew how much hard work and sweat went into building the first one and you just think ‘oh my goodness all those hours of community together that went down the drain,” Joanne Pinkerton, another general coordinator of the playground, said.

“Each year that went by you kept seeing how your kids got older and older and they would not be able to use it as much as they did when they were little. You know we’d go by and say ‘oh I wonder when they’re going to build it again,” Gehart said.

Not even a month after the fire, community members bonded.

But the ending of this week is bittersweet, because for a moment in time the fullness of a community could be felt by everybody,

“I think this is great I mean seeing everybody from all different walks of life and occupations and they were able to pull together to truly bring this together as fast as its come together also,” Daniel Whitsel, a volunteer, said.

“We made a lot of friends today that are going to be friends the rest of our lives,” Pinkerton said.

“Last night I sat on that bench with a 75-year-old man who stumbled in the mulch because he wanted to help. And he couldn’t help. And we both just cried. I said, ‘Just look. Look at all these people. This is the generation taking over,” Bartakovids said.

The volunteers finished the playground Sunday.

It cost about $230,000 and the Rotary Club took the project under their wing. Every dollar was donated.

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