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posted Sep 25, 2013 - 6:47:46pm
Nickelodeon and SpongeBob Squarepants paid a visit to Enterprise Elementary Sept. 12, for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the school's new SpongeBob-themed playground.
The playground was designed by Landscape Structures artist Tory Ruff of Minneapolis, who worked closely with the children's television network on the project. Landscape Structures also built the playground's exact replica of SpongeBob's home, Bikini Bottom, out of steel, recycled aluminum and recycled plastic.
The playground bears the name of the student who made it all possible.
Last year, fifth-grader Madison Hearn saw a commercial on Nickelodeon for "The Big Help I Wanna Play Sweepstakes." With permission from her mother, Maddie entered the online sweepstakes, never thinking she actually had a chance of winning.
When she was informed that her entry had been chosen at random from all the entries, Maddie said she was amazed and "really surprised." Nickelodeon could not confirm how many entries were received.
According to Nickelodeon sweepstakes rules, a person could enter the contest once a day between Aug. 27, 2012, and Sept. 14, 2012.
Maddie won the grand prize, which included a $100,000 playground makeover, and a trip for four to the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards in Los Angeles, including airfare, hotel stay, transportation to the awards, and $1,000 in spending money.
When Nickelodeon called Enterprise Elementary to notify the school of Maddie's win, Principal Virginia Abernathy said everybody was shocked.
""It was such a surprise when they called, we though it was a scam," she said.
Abernathy received her own surprise at the ribbon-cutting celebration when she was "slimed" with the famous Nickelodeon green slime. Students cheered as the slime oozed down their principal's face and clothes.
Building the playground took about a year after the initial phone call. It was opened for the first time to students after the Sept. 12 ceremony.
The playground features all of the usual equipment, such as slides, monkey bars, rock walls and jungle gyms, but they are all presented in the under-the-sea SpongeBob theme. The playground is also accessible by students with disabilities, and has a PebbleFlex mock water walkway.
Music teacher Marci Wiltz led the students in the SpongeBob theme song at the end of the ceremony, then the youngsters made a mad dash to play in SpongeBob's world for the first time.
Maddie said she has become somewhat of a local celebrity, with everybody thanking her for the playground; there's even a sign on the playground that thanks her.
Candace Lankford of the Volusia County School Board said Maddie has become a permanent part of the history of Enterprise Elementary, which dates back more than 100 years.
"I think it's awesome because it was honored in my name," Maddie said.
The school gave Maddie a certificate for a two-night stay at the Nickelodeon Hotel in Orlando for her and her family.
Volusia County Schools spokeswoman Nancy Wait noted the children's excitement about the playground.
"No one in the entire country has a playground like this," Wait said. "It's one of a kind, and the kids are feeling pretty special."
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