Wanting to help in any way they could, local youths with different organizations took part in Global Youth Service Day by putting in a gaga pit at the outdoor recreational area at the Jewish Community Center.
Sara Wilschek, youth and family programming coordinator for the Jewish Community Center, said among the groups participating were J-Serve with the JCC, Jewish Teens Serving the World, and Children International Summer Villages, a foreign exchange program.
Wilschek said a work day involved building a gaga pit, which first involved creating a floor with rubber mulch. Forty participants attended.
Gaga is the Israeli version of dodgeball. Gaga is played in a large octagon or hexagon called the gaga pit.
She said the youths in grades seven to 12, with assistance from the JCC staff, took rubber mulch from the garden and created a layer in the garden for the base of the pit. She said the walls will be 30 inches high with six sides that are each 10 foot long.
"They created an enclosed court where the game can be played," she said.
The area is also to be painted.
Cindy Anderson, local coordinator for northeastern Ohio branch with CISV, said there were 10 youths from around the world who participated at the local event.
She said the youths in grades 10 to 12 spend an academic year in the United States and often take part in such community service projects.
"They come here for a year to stay and are encouraged to be involved in community service projects like this," Anderson said.
Wilschek said mulch for the gaga area was taken from the garden area, which was also upgraded by the youths.
Lilly Hetson of Hubbard said she was glad to be able to be part of the day's events.
"I like the volunteering and knowing that we are creating something new to the community that can be used by children," Hetson said.
Hetson said everyone helped pick up trash and made sure the area was clean and helped bring mulch from the community garden to the gaga pit so it was not all mud on the bottom.
Kat Holleran of Cleveland, who was there through CISV, was excited about the project.
"It was fun to come together with all the different organizations and work on this and help in the community," she said.
Ben Weiss of Canfield said he was encouraged to be part of the effort by his brother. Despite rain, Weiss said he didn't mind getting wet putting the mulch on the pit.
"It was a great project to be involved with," he said.
Noah Persson, a junior at Liberty High School who serves as president of the junior branch of the northeastern Ohio chapter of CISV, said he wanted to get involved with the project as a way to focus on peace.
Persson spoke at the Israel 65 Independence Day program held recently at the JCC.
He had spent two weeks overseas in Israel last month where he took part in the Israel Independence Day through March of the Living, an annual educational program that brings Jewish teens to Poland to study the Holocaust.
He spent seven days in Poland touring Auschwitz and other concentration camps where millions of Jews died during World War II.