By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Family, friends, teammates and those from the Enid community came together Saturday to make a two-year long dream come true.
At 9 a.m., a community work- day began at Champion Park, located at 10th and Chestnut and sponsored by the Austin Box Foundation.
The city of Enid exchanged property at 700 N. 10th with Enid Public Schools several years ago to obtain the space for a park.
Whitney Box, director of strategic and long-range planning for the city, was asked to design the park. At the time, her brother, Austin, recently had died from an overdose of painkillers. Austin was a star football and baseball player at Enid High School and played football at the University of Oklahoma.
“It’s been a two-year project,” Whitney Box said, standing amid palettes of cement mix and boxes of playground equipment.
“A lot of Austin’s friends came out,” she said. “Seeing everyone come out here is amazing.”
Initial work was done prior to the community build day. Despite other events in Enid this weekend, Whitney Box said the turnout at 9 a.m. was good.
“We’ve got plenty to start with,” she said. “We got everyone running as soon as they got here.”
She said Austin’s OU and Enid High School teammates were expected to come out Saturday to work. Kenny Stills, Casey LaBrue and Tyson Seng were expected. Clint and Colton Chelf also were seen mixing cement alongside Austin’s father, Craig Box.
Craig Box said it was “very gratifying” to see so many people become involved in the community build day in honor of his son. He said there were friends and family — teammates of Austin— but he also saw a lot of people he’s never met.
“I think a lot of it is a reflection of that they thought about Austin,” Craig Box said. “It’s really nice to see these kids again. A lot of friends and teammates I haven’t seen in several months.”
Austin’s mother, Gail Box, said she was excited to see the project coming to life.
“I’m so excited that people could come out in Austin’s name,” Gail Box said. “He would be so proud to have his friends here.”
She said the community build day was a great way for people to show how much they cared for her son.
“One of his favorite shirts to wear was his red ‘I Love Enid shirt,’ she said. “He really loved his community, and to see them love him back and do this in his name means so much.”
She said it was heartwarming to see OU and OSU players come together and work on a project.
“In the end, his friends are what matter and they came in his name.”
Two applicants for the scholarship offered by the Austin Box Foundation, Jake Scott and Kasey Ross, also were working Saturday.
“It is something that is much needed in Enid,” Whitney Box said. “It will compliment the splash pad park very well.”
Matthew Athey, Austin’s best friend, also was there Saturday to help build the park.
“It feels good,” he said of working on a park in his friend’s honor. “I’m just glad to get everyone together and work on something for the community.”
Athey commended Whitney Box on the work she’s done planning the park and bringing it together.
“She’s done a great job of leading the Austin Box Foundation and putting this all together,” Athey said. “It’s a great way to commemorate Austin’s legacy.”
OSU Quarterback Clint Chelf said Austin was his brother’s age and two years older than him. Despite the age difference, he said he grew up around Austin.
“It’s amazing. It really shows what a community can do for a cause,” Chelf said. “Everybody can come work together.
“It would have been a great thing for us growing up, but it’ll be great here,” Chelf said. “This park really seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The cost of the park normally would be about $400,000, but with some grants and other funding, because of the park’s purpose, the cost was about $277,000, Whitney Box said.
Bill Short, who does design and sales for Child’s Play Inc., said it normally would take a crew about two and half weeks to accomplish what was done Saturday.
“It will be the nicest park in 250 miles,” Short said. He called the morning turnout “amazing.”
“These are the types of projects that make my job fun,” Short said. “When the community takes ownership of a project like this, it means more to them. They take a special interest in it and it tends to last longer. It’s just very cool.”
The park will feature two playgrounds, one for ages 2-5 and the other for ages 5-12. The park already contains a splash pad the shape of a football field.
The park will contain logos from OU, Oklahoma State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Northern Oklahoma College.