Actor Kirk Douglas vowed Tuesday he'd be back in 20 years--at age 102--to the $50,000 freshly sodded playing field and new jungle gym at Welby Way Elementary School.
"I'm thrilled to see this field. My group will come here and play after school," said Douglas, who seemed ready for action in black suede sneakers. He and his wife, Anne, donated $1 million to a playground fund that pays for landscaping and equipment in Los Angeles schools.
His mischievous remark sparked cheers and applause from about 850 students, parents, teachers and officials honoring the Douglases with speeches and songs.
Playground plans were a year in the making: School officials and community members worked to write the grant proposal, find contractors and scrape together $25,000 through creative budgeting to get the maximum in matching grants from the fund. A-G Sod Farms in Palmdale planted the field at 70% of the cost, a company representative said.
"When I first started calling landscaping firms for estimates, people laughed and said schools in the Valley didn't have grass fields. This is a dream come true," said Julie Kornack, a West Hills parent who led the charge.
Welby Way is one of 31 district schools to receive funds from a $2.5-million pot whose other contributors are the Riordan Foundation and Wilbur May Foundation.
"Children should work hard, then they should play hard," Douglas said, adding that he credits his wife with the idea for donating to schools.
Alison Mathis, 8, of Woodland Hills, said the play set--outfitted with two slides, monkey bars and two turrets--was a hit with students.
"I think it's really cool. The slide's my favorite," said the freckled second-grader. "We don't have to play on that rusty old set anymore."