The second annual Ahrens Playground Safety Advocate of the Year Award was given to Mr. Lester Chuck from Honolulu, HI. Mr. Chuck has worked many years on facilities in the state of Hawaii. He was the former Facilities Director for the Hawaii Public Schools. Lester was active in getting playground training for his staff at the National Playground School at Hickam Air Force Base. After attending NPPS training, he assessed the elementary school playgrounds in Hawaii. After the assessment, the schools condemned 265 pieces of playground equipment as unsafe equipment. Therefore, Lester was instrumental in convincing Government Officials to provide over 6 million dollars to increase the safety of all the playgrounds in the elementary schools in Hawaii.
"Lester has made tough and unpopular decisions with asking the schools in Hawaii to remove unsafe equipment. However, in spite of efforts to make it known to schools and the public that equipment removal was in the best interests of students, parents, and school personnel, this action resulted in undue and uninformed criticism. Many did not realize that equipment removal was done to protect the children. Although it was not his job to do, Lester was instrumental in generating momentum to get legislative help," commented Ken Kajihara, current CIP Planner, Facilities, and Support Services Branch.
After the money was allocated, Lester sponsored an NPPS workshop to help teachers and several school representatives to plan safe and appropriate playgrounds. "Lester's work has always been based on sound planning," indicated Ray Minami, Facilities Director . Because of Mr. Chuck's efforts, Hawaii is in the process of working diligently on rebuilding many school playgrounds.
Mr. Chuck has helped make Hawaii an excellent example of a state that is willing to do what is right on behalf of children to make them safe. Lester was also a speaker for the first U.S. Summit on Playground Safety in April of 2001. We congratulate Lester for the terrific leadership he exhibited to make the playgrounds at the elementary schools in Hawaii safe for children.
For all that he has done, NPPS was pleased to award Mr. Lester Chuck the Ahrens National Playground Safety Advocate of the Year!