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Five-year facelift completed at Kelly Park thanks to donations, volunteer labor

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A 5-year, $300 thousand dollar renovation project at Kelly Park in South Bend is finally finished.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the park Thursday afternoon, which brought many members of the community together, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The renovations were made possible thanks to plans dreamed up by children from the Robinson Community Learning Center, some of who were as young as 8 years old at the time, as well as engineering students from the University of Notre Dame.

"Being able to walk into this park and know that I was the one who helped come up with the plan for this park and the vision for it is just great," said Kashlin Biffle who helped put the renovation plans together. "I just thank everyone who helped us and supported us because it was not easy."

Biffle was just 9 years old when she decided she wanted to see Kelly Park, just off Howard Street in South Bend, change for the better.

She and 11 other kids did their research and sent Mayor Pete Buttigieg a letter.

"When we saw the letter like, alright we gotta show up and see what these kids had to say," said Mayor Buttigieg. "When you saw some of this kids, some of them 8 years old, had gathered information, photos, and made a very convincing and compelling case."

Helping the kids, too, was LuEllen Webster from the Robinson Community Learning Center.

Webster says the children's message was inspiring.

"With all the negative stuff that’s going on nowadays, when you find children that want to do something positive, we as adults should jump on board and help and support them," said Webster.

Sky Drone 57 shows what the once dilapidated park looks like now, with new basketball courts and playground equipment.

The kids who dreamed up the project won a $1,000 dollar grant to help make the plans, while the City of South Bend paid about a third of the $300,000 dollar cost.

The rest of the cost being covered by volunteer labor and material donations.

Biffle says she wants kids to be able to come to the park and enjoy themselves without having to spend money at a mall, or on a movie.

"Sometimes at parks, you find friends who are your friends forever," said Biffle. "Long lasting friendships, I want younger kids to be able to come to the park and find friends."

As for LuEllen Webster, when ABC 57 News asked her what was next on her plan, she laughed, and added she'll try to help residents in other neighborhoods improve their parks, too.

Webster is now part of a committee to help residents around Coquillard Park, also known as Pearly Park, come up with plans to transform it, just like they did at Kelly Park.

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