Christian kids on a mission to beautify and revitalize Akron parks and recreation centers

200 kids will mulch, paint and build on Saturday

AKRON, Ohio - About 200 kids from Ohio and Pennsylvania will converge on Akron this Saturday to mulch parks, use power washers to remove graffiti from a skate park and rebuild city-owned bleachers.

Pastor Tony Myles from Connection Church in Medina helped organize the one-day mission dubbed "The Big Day of Serving."

"We're going to start with a lot of projects that at the beginning of the day are hopefully going to seem insurmountable, but by the end of the day, they're going to have their hands dirty. They're going to feel like they made a real difference," Myles said.

Some of the other projects the teens will work on include painting on the grounds of the All-American Soap Box Derby and staining a gazebo at Shadyside Park.

The city of Akron is giving about $5,000 in paint and other supplies to the kids, while also providing tools such as shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows.

Billy Soule, assistant to the mayor for community relations, said the mission helps cities that are struggling with upkeep, and may also inspire residents to chip in.

"This way it saves our city money, but it also gives an impetus to others to say, 'Hey, I can step forward. I can make a difference,'" Soule said.

Jeremiah Isley, youth director at Victory Life Church in Stow, said the work done by the kids provides proof that their actions count.

"We're told all the time that kids are the leaders of the future, and in this instance, they're actually the leaders of today," Isley said.

Pastor Pete Ryder, from Church of the Nazarene in Medina, worked on a similar mission with 500 kids during a cleanup of the city of Medina this past spring.

"Building better neighborhoods is a key ingredient in building an entire community that makes a difference," Ryder said.

The teens will gather at 8:30 a.m. for a kickoff rally at Lock 3 in downtown Akron, and then depart for their projects.

At 3 p.m., a block party celebration will take place where the kids will share stories and celebrate their work.

The Big Day of Serving was organized by a non-profit organization. It has hosted nearly 250,000 participants and provided more than 6 million hours of volunteer service since 1977.

"I am amazed at what well-organized youth groups can accomplish in such a short period of time," said Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic. "At the end of the day, our citizens will enjoy renewed pride in their parks and neighborhoods.

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