‘They deserve that’: Steph and Ayesha Curry unveil new playground at Oakland elementary school

OAKLAND — Stephen and Ayesha Curry, flanked by a small army of volunteers, were at Franklin Elementary School in Oakland on Saturday to help put the finishing touches on a new playground and community garden built in part by the couple’s foundation.

“We stand by the fact it takes a village to raise a child,” Ayesha, an actress and best-selling cookbook author, said. “To be that village in this instance is a no-brainer.”

The village this time included multiple volunteers working over four days to install a new playground structure and a basketball court and paint some 300 yards of murals, much of it in the Golden State Warriors’ trademark blue and gold, as well as build a raised garden that will help students access fresh vegetables right in their play space.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry and their daughter Ryan join kids, parents, and teachers at Franklin Elementary in Oakland, as well as representatives from KABOOM! and CarMax, to put finishing touches on a playground and court at the school and officially open the space for kids to enjoy. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Eat. Learn. Play.) 

 

The upgrade was deeply needed by students, said first-year principal Lusa Lai, adding that none of the kids have seen the new structures in person. School is now out for the summer.

“They just deserved so much more; the old structure that we had literally had holes on the slides,” Lai said. “When we come back to school, I want to have a big welcoming party — socially distanced, of course.”

The new playground was designed with input from students, who were asked to draw their ideal play area, she said. Students then got to vote on one of three designs sent back by KABOOM!, a nonprofit that builds and improves playgrounds aimed particularly at underserved communities of color.

Among the students’ favorite elements were the two slides and track ride — tested and approved on Saturday by the Curry family — as well as a balancing boogie board.

Stephen Curry joins kids, parents and teachers at Franklin Elementary in Oakland, as well as representatives from KABOOM! and CarMax, to put finishing touches on a playground and court at the school and officially open the space for kids to enjoy. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Eat. Learn. Play.) 

Safe, quality playgrounds are a “basic need” for children, said Steph Curry, the Warriors’ superstar who has become a fixture of the Oakland community since joining the team — which now plays in San Francisco — in 2009.

“You have some of your best memories on the playground, playing basketball, other sports, going down on the playground slides and all that,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking, though, in that that’s not a guarantee for every kid, depending on where they live.”

The project is a collaboration of The CarMax Foundation, KABOOM!, the Oakland Unified School District and the Currys’ Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation. It was announced in November, when the pandemic had kept many kids away from their school buildings for months. That absence affected students already struggling with a lack of access to quality play areas, Lysa Ratliff, acting CEO of KABOOM!, said in a statement at the time.

Along the walls of the renovated space are murals created by Bay Area artist DJ Agana representing athletes, activists and community leaders alongside messages like “Stronger Together” and “Believe.” The messages and faces were carefully chosen to inspire students, showing them people who may not be superstars but made a positive influence in their community, Lai said.

Stephen Curry joins kids, parents and teachers at Franklin Elementary in Oakland, as well as representatives from KABOOM! and CarMax, to put finishing touches on a playground and court at the school. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Eat. Learn. Play.) 

They include Marley Dias, who founded the #1000BlackGirlBooks movement; Richard Aoki, an early Black Panther Party member; and Sophie Cruz, who at a young age became a prominent advocate for undocumented immigrants.

“We want them to dream big and we want them to lead,” Lai said of her students, about 90 percent of whom receive free or reduced lunch and nearly half of whom are English language learners, according to data from the California Department of Education.

Steph Curry had visited the campus before, Lai said, and his and his family’s involvement in the new project sent a powerful message to students.

“For someone with his stardom to come and want to do this for the kids speaks volumes,” she said. “The kids will know that you know what, we matter. Even to Steph Curry, we matter.”

But for Ayesha and Steph, the day was about giving back to a city that has felt like home for over a decade, as well as to fulfill a vital need.

“Coming from Toronto slash North Carolina, we didn’t know a lot about the Bay before ’09, and it’s all we’ve known for the last 12 years,” Steph said. “It’s an amazing community full of life, full of inspiration, full of potential and talent, but opportunity is kind of far and few between, so we’re committed to the work, committed to opportunities, to continue to leave some impact.”

That sentiment was echoed by Ayesha, who alongside their daughters had helped paint part of a mural, plant some of the garden and install the outdoor basketball court’s rubber flooring earlier in the day. The family later cut a ribbon made up of paper hands crafted by the school’s students.

“This is not about us, so I just hope that this brings joy to the kids and peace of mind to the parents and the teachers that these kids have a safe place to play,” she said. “They deserve that.”

Stephen and Ayesha Curry join kids, parents, and teachers at Franklin Elementary in Oakland, as well as representatives from KABOOM! and CarMax, to put finishing touches on a playground and court at the school and officially open the space for kids to enjoy. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Eat. Learn. Play.) 

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Author: Leonardo Castañeda

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