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Hometown Hero: A big idea for bigger playground equipment

By John Weiss, September 19, 2013

(Gabriel Jarrod, 10, is the brains, planner, accountant, and promoter for Operation: FUN! that is trying to raise $20,000 for more playground equipment in Hayfield, MN.)

According to Erin Jarrod, her son, Gabriel, is the family's "idea guy."

“He likes to think of things to do, to improve, to challenge him,” she said.

Several months ago, 10-year-old Gabriel came up with a whopper of an idea: "I am planning to raise $20,000 to get three pieces of park equipment" for two Hayfield, MN parks. That will be enough for a bigger swing set and a Loopy-Whoop Spinner at Earl B. Himle Park, and a merry-go-round at the park near the nursing home.

He got the idea because he likes to play on playgrounds and his family sometimes goes park-hopping in the region, checking out different parks with his parents and brothers Orion, 8, and Luke, 6.

"I would come back to Hayfield and notice there was some playground equipment I played on in other parks that we don't have," Gabriel said. He was especially eager to have a merry-go-round.

That is how Operation: FUN! came about.

When he heard his son's big idea, Drew Jarrod hesitated. "Are you sure?" he asked. "It seemed to be a long, involved process."

But he also didn't want to put a damper on Gabriel's enthusiasm.

On April 15, Gabriel went before the Hayfield City Council to pitch his plan. He used note cards and told them how the local parks needed more equipment.

The council agreed, and Gabriel went to work.

He has his own Facebook page that says he has hit $1,682 so far. His slogan is "Smiles for Little Ones, No Matter the Size." Gabriel said that says it all, why he and his family sold ice cream and other goodies at the city's summer festival and why he has jars set out at local businesses where people can drop in donations.

The local Chamber of Commerce chipped in $500, and the Legion gave him $150.

He has to do his own counting and bookkeeping, Drew said. That's a good education for the boy who, along with his brothers, attends the online school MTS Minnesota Connections Academy. Operation: FUN! isn't part of his curriculum, but online school does allow him the flexibility to go to meetings to talk to groups.

“Talking was a chore at first,” he said, but added he has what it takes. "I think I'm outgoing, and I am a leader," Gabriel said.

"With every talk he gives, he gets better," Erin said.

Gabriel said that at times the job seems too big and the $20,000 goal too far away. He hopes to be able to swing on a big swing at Himle Park when he's 16. Despite the big gap between what's needed and what he has, he's going to keep at it.

"I just want to finish it," he said.

[And finish it he did.  A few years later, the money was raised and the park equipment installed.  Now, everyone can benefit from the work Gabriel did.  Enjoy!]

Hometown Hero is a weekly feature highlighting a community leader, mover-and-shaker, volunteer or all-around great person.
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What Gabriel has done for me: 

Reads stories to us - (complete with different character voices)!
Encourages me - is the Body of Christ to me.
Helps me write and edit my songs.
Introduces me to his writings.
 Was there for me when my father died.
Helps his brothers with their math questions (he has serious skills)!
Writes me thoughtful Birthday and Christmas letters.
Records my music videos.
Makes me feel loved.