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Celebration caps Columbus' Race to Play efforts

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A Columbus Park Foundation program to update equipment at four city playgrounds will be capped Wednesday with a celebrity-studded series of ribbon cuttings and a convocation at Columbus North High School.

The foundation’s Race to Play program has made about $500,000 in playground improvements at four city parks: Mead Village, Morningside, Pence Street and Ninth Street parks. The Mead Village park is decorated in a Tony Stewart theme, recognizing his foundation as one of the major donors for the initiative.

The first major sponsors of the program were the Tony Stewart Foundation and the Carter Oosterhouse Foundation. Stewart, a NASCAR driver originally from Columbus, grew up in a home near the park where the playground was built. Oosterhouse is a television star on HGTV. Their involvement has drawn other celebrity and community interest, including Subway spokesman Jared Fogle’s foundation.

The celebrities will take part in public ceremonies Wednesday at the parks. Each of the four affected parks will have a ribbon-cutting and a neighborhood cookout by the Kiwanis Club, and Cummins Inc. team members will celebrate recent neighborhood cleanups in the areas around the parks. Times for the activities are:

  • 11 a.m.: Mead Village Park
  • 2:30 p.m.: Morningside Park
  • 3:15 p.m.: Ninth Street Park
  • 4 p.m.: Pence Street Park

Neighborhood residents and children are encouraged to attend the public playground events, said April Williams, project and resource development director for the parks department.

Stewart and Fogle will give a presentation on lifelong healthy habits in a convocation at 5 p.m. at Columbus North High School. Student winners of an essay contest will be given special seating at the convocation and will have a meet-and-greet afterward with Fogle and Stewart.

Williams said there are still openings available for a private reception at noon with Stewart, Oosterhouse and Fogle at a private home. Tickets for the event are $5,000 and are available through Williams, or 376-2680. All proceeds will go toward the playground initiative.

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