Just before 9 a.m. Friday, the construction of the new gaga ball pit at Shoemaker Elementary School hadn’t even started. By 11:30 a.m., the people who put it together were playing a game inside the pit.
During the morning, more than 20 people assembled the pit east of the school’s main playground.
The young man behind the project was 13-year-old Matthew Rosenlund. A Boy Scout, he organized a coin war and supervised Friday’s assembly for his Eagle Scout project.
Rosenlund, a Shoemaker graduate, is an eighth-grader at Westridge Middle School.
When school resumes Monday, the Shoemaker students will be able to play gaga ball during recess.
The first students to have a chance will be Morgan Cemper’s fourth-grade class, who won the coin war.
A gaga pit is a fenced area inside which players hit a ball at each other with their hands. Players are eliminated if the ball strikes them on or below the knee. The playing surface is usually enclosed inside a octagon or hexagon.
The sport is growing in popularity. Several other gaga pits can be found around Grand Island.
Rosenlund discovered the sport in the summer before third grade, when he attended a Scout camp with his brothers. He took a liking to the game at the camp.
The gaga ball pit cost about $4,700. Donations totaled about $2,700, most of which came from the school’s coin war. The Shoemaker parent teacher group provided the rest of the money.
Shoemaker physical education teacher Kathryn Olson played a key role in the project.
The pit should be good for the school’s students.
“It’s another way to keep them involved at recess and moving their bodies and staying healthy,” Olson said.
Not only is the game fun, but it’s a good way to wear people out. Playing gaga ball for a while will leave kids “dead dog-tired,” said Matthew’s father, Jon.
The work began Friday with volunteers unloading mats of rubberized padding from a pickup. The pieces for the pit came in a kit from Coach Cliff’s GaGa Ball Pits, based in Waukegan, Ill. The walls are made of a composite material.
Stephanie Kissler, president of the Shoemaker PTO, says the gaga ball pit was “a great team effort” by the students, families, teachers, staff and Matthew.
The PTO had been talking about a gaga ball pit for a couple of years, Kissler said.
So when Matthew approached the school in August with the idea, it all fit together.
Matthew actually suggested that Shoemaker get a pit when he was in the third grade. At that time, he wasn’t even thinking about an Eagle Scout project. He just thought it would be good for the school.
Matthew is a member of Troop 114, which is based at First-Faith United Methodist Church. His parents are Jon and Becky Rosenlund.
Matthew actually won’t be an Eagle Scout for a while. His brothers, Christopher and Jared, already have earned the honor. A sister, Daina, hopes to achieve it down the road.
The big group helping Friday included seven or eight Scouts and eight Mormon missionaries — six men and two women. Also lending a hand was Olson’s husband, Nate. “He knows his way around a drill,” his wife said.
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