HUDSON – The students at Ellsworth Hill Elementary School can look forward to another fun feature during recess, thanks to the efforts of a local Boy Scout and other volunteers, including fellow members of Troop 327.
Berk Pelletier, who put together a gaga ball pit as his main project for his Eagle Award, said his own school days inspired the idea.
"I grew up in California," said Berk, who will be a senior at Hudson High School in the coming school year. "The playgrounds I grew up with all had gaga pits, and I really enjoyed that. They were really popular, that’s where the kids went to."
Gaga ball is a game played in an enclosed area and with a soft ball.The game is similar to dodgeball, where the object is to hit players at or below the knee with the ball to eliminate them from play; the last one in the pit is the winner.
Berk said his initial idea was to construct a gaga ball pit at at East Woods, but there was a setback: that school already had recently installed one. So he decided to bring the idea to Ellsworth Hill.
Planning for the gaga ball pit started in February, Berk said. Construction on it was going to take place in April, but the pandemic forced him to postpone that phase until June. Still, Berk said the time spent in between was fruitful, and he spent it getting donations.
"It was a productive time," Berk said. "Once we started to build it, it only took two days."
The gaga ball pit was assembled June 19 and 20. The total cost of the play feature was $700, but Berk added that with donations, it only cost him $60.
"The cost for the food for the Scouts who helped build this cost twice as much," Berk said. "Material was donated by Home Depot and Lowe’s, and the limestone was delivered for free by Shelly Company. They guy from Shelly Company was really nice. They have an office in Twinsburg."
Berk said that the donations and cost savings fit with a tenant of one of the Scout laws: "A Scout is thrifty."
There were about 14 people who helped assemble the ball pit, although only 10 could be on site at any time, so "they alternated on different days," said Berk.
"The first day, we had the younger volunteers," he said. "The second day we had the older teens and men."
Berk said he was thankful for the help and support in building the gaga ball pit.
"I had neighbors who helped donate post diggers and shovels," Berk said. "Technically, it was my Eagle project but it was a whole community endeavor to figure out how to get things together."
The ball pit has already been used; Berk said his troop gave it a test drive after it was finished, and he added that Jennifer Filomena, the principal at Ellsworth Hill, has seen children playing in it on occasion.
Filomena said that Berk contacted her last fall about the idea of a gaga ball pit.
"I know it’s a big hit with kids," she said. "It’s something else they can do at recess."
Part of the challenge was trying to find a place for the ball pit, Filomena said. "Some of the land around the playground holds a lot of water. We were going to go with one location but it was too wet, so we moved it up the hill between two trees, for shade."
Filomena said she and Berk met several times through the year, and she reviewed the plans from the recess monitors to get their input. She commended Berk for his efforts in keeping her updated on the project.
"It was supposed to be a three-day build, but they finished Saturday evening," Filomena said. "It was very well organized, he did a good job in overseeing operations. This was one of my best Eagle Scout experiences yet."
In addition to Boy Scouts, Berk said he is a sprinter on his high school track team. He said he likes to run, paint, and write. He also has a job at Chipolte in Hudson.
While his after graduation plans are not concrete yet, Berk said he was leaning toward "going into something like political science or business management," or something humanities based.
"Something vague and general, so I can specialize later," he said.
Gannett Reporter April Helms can be reached at email@example.com