Eight-year-old Kailey Buttry stood in the rain Thursday, working to complete an idea she has had for two years -- to make the Hixson Elementary School playground safer.
Kailey and her friends and family worked in the wet, getting soaked as they used zip ties to attach foam padding to poles supporting various structures on the playground. They will be back later to install padding around the basketball goalposts.
"We tried to get out here before it started raining, but that didn't work out," said Chasity Buttry, Kailey's mother, as she attached padding around a yellow pole. "We're going to stay out here until we're finished."
Kailey broke her collarbone, cracked her nose and suffered a concussion two years ago when she ran into a pole on the playground.
"When I was 6 -- I'm 8 now -- I ran into one of those big poles over there," she said, pointing to the large jungle gym. "I was running and hit a little boy, and bounced off him and hit the pole."
Kailey's grandmother Debbie Wilmoth said Kailey was one of many children to be injured on the playground over the years, and she came up with the project soon after her injury.
"She said she didn't want her sister or any of the other kids to get hurt," Wilmoth said. "She's always thinking about others like that. She rarely thinks just about Kailey."
Kailey, whom her mom referred to as "the star of the show," has overseen every part of the project. Buttry said she took the 8-year-old to local home improvement stores to ask for donations for the playground. Kailey explained to the stores what she wanted and became irritated if her mother tried to speak for her, Buttry said.
"She explained to me in a very mature fashion that at least two accidents had occurred with kids running into poles," said Philip Smith, a manager at Lowe's in Hixson. "I felt very impressed by her."
Lowe's donated padding for the poles, and Home Depot donated mulch, a hopscotch set and a tic-tac-toe apparatus for the playground.
Kailey said the project was important for her because she wanted her classmates to have a safe place to play.
"I didn't want them to get hurt like I did," she said. "We're trying to protect everyone from getting hurt."