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March 29, 2011 > Teens spruce up Fairyland

Teens spruce up Fairyland

Submitted By Alfred Alipio-Jocson

In fairy tales, the heroine is usually assisted by a magical creature to achieve her goal. On Saturday, April 2, for the fifth successive year, 100 teenagers from the Saint Anne's Catholic Confirmation Program will visit Oakland Children's Fairyland. Instead of sprinkling fairy dust and waving a wand, this group from Union City will spread compost, swing a hammer and break a sweat to help restore the shine to the 60-year old institution.

The teens are preparing to receive the sacrament of confirmation, a rite of initiation in the Roman Catholic Church. St. Anne is one of the largest parishes in the Oakland Diocese but maintains a friendly, small-town atmosphere.

"We cannot always be on the receiving ends of things and the opportunity to make a difference is one we need to instill in all of us. It isn't just about the 'feel good' atmosphere that comes from serving, it's also about realizing that we are blessed and those blessings are passed on by our actions," says St. Anne's youth minister Jim Soltau.

In recent years, the St. Anne's youth has raised approximately $3,000 and donated about half to Fairyland to cover the cost of materials needed for projects and the remainder to feed the volunteers for the day.

"To the public, I think it presents a positive image of youth doing community service; that's what helped build Children's Fairyland in the first place: local organizations donating funding, services and labor to start a children's park," said Annie Wong, Fairyland's Art & Restoration Director.

On April 2, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., six teams from St. Anne's will paint a play structure, repair and paint benches, replace grass with a native plant garden and extend a fence. In the past, the St. Anne's projects have yielded immediate results. According to Wong, regular visitors to the park over the past three years, or so, have noticed something has been re-painted or re-built when they visit. She is grateful for the help from large volunteer groups like St. Anne's.

For Yvonne Backman, Supervisor of the Fairyland Animal Department, the rabbit enclosure has been the most dramatic and most commented on St. Anne's project in the animal department to date. Each day she casts her eye over the wonderful rabbit tunnel and fresh green grass and blesses St. Anne's for their selflessness.

"Public comments have gone from 'What happened to this place, it looks so bad?' to 'It looks so much better these days I can see improvement each time I visit.' St. Anne's is responsible for many of those improvements and has often helped staff move closer to completing a project."

Soltau hopes that the work inspires others in another way; the presence of young people performing a service for the Fairyland community sends a message to visitors who see them. There have always been positive comments when adults see the young people at work, smiling, laughing and radiating the positive energy of youth.

Children's Fairyland at 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland, has few resources and a long wish list. The park and its staff welcome all help. For more information, visit www.fairyland.org

For more information about St. Anne's, Union City, visit http://saintannecatholic.org

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