Recess will never be the same for elementary students in the Palmerton Area School District.

Especially now that the pupils have five new pieces of playground equipment at their disposal, thanks to the volunteer efforts of one of its parent-teacher organizations.

A new set of swings, a carousel, tube slide, toss-up and monkey bars were unveiled as part of the Coal Bowl playground dedication ceremony on Monday.

MaryJo King, president of the SS Palmer/Parkside PTO, said work to the playground was officially completed in June.

"Where we stand now was once a fenced-in area filled with overgrown trees and shrubs," King said. "Almost three years ago, a group of dedicated and determined PTO volunteers had an idea to clean up the area. That idea expanded into making more space for our more than 400 elementary students who use the Coal Bowl playground for recess."

But, in order for the group to achieve its objective, King said it took hours of hard work, planning, countless meetings and numerous fundraisers.

"On June 4, volunteers, including PTO members, business owners, community members and school district employees put on their work gloves and picked up the shovels and rakes to install the equipment you see and make our dream become a reality," she said. "It was an overwhelming day, as I watched all the different volunteers come together for one purpose ... the children of this school district and community."

King thanked Palmerton Area School District administration and board members; Superintendent Carol Boyce; S.S. Palmer/Parkside Education Center Principal Mary Brumbach; and board President Barry Scherer; as well as Joe Faenza, director of facilities, for all of his cooperation, willingness to help, and be a "hands-on" volunteer.

Also recognized by King were Dr. David Bell and Barry Isett & Associates for assisting in the reclamation design of the area; Rob Sarnowksi, project manager, site restoration; Don Smith of the Horsehead Corporation, who coordinated soil removal; Jim Kinkle from the PA Department of Environmental Protection Agency for assistance in the remediation of the area; Charlie Root from the Environmental Protection Agency; and engineer Jim Christman, whom she said was responsible for the original design and layout.

King then recognized Donald and Mary Behler; Palmerton Area Recreation Committee; Christian Churchmen's Softball League; Hager Furniture; Wal-Mart; Palmerton Lumber; Sikorsky Concrete; Fred J. Lesher General Contractor (especially Fred Lesher Jr); the Palmerton Hotel; Hahn Boys Landscaping; and Jet Signs as community members, businesses and volunteers for their efforts and donations.

"Last, but certainly not least, the amazing group of SS Palmer and Parkside Elementary PTO volunteers," she said. "You are the heroes of this project. All your determination and drive is what got us here today."

King also extended a special thanks to PTO officers Nicki Frank, vice president; Julie Stroup, secretary; and Christine Lesher, treasurer; as well as her husband and three sons for their "patience and understanding."

Boyce said she believes the playground was a "manifestation of something really, really special."

"This truly is an example of a lot of organizations working together cooperatively for the sake of the kids," Boyce said. "The kids are certainly the beneficiaries; well done."

Brumbach said the PTO was a "phenomenal organization," and said she has never worked with such a "vibrant" group.

"This is a wonderful environment; the kids just love it," Brumbach said. "I just think this is magnificent, what this has become since I came here two years ago; absolutely amazing."

King wrapped up the ceremony with a presentation of the sign that will be placed at the playground.

Clearly, sisters Clair Frank, a first-grade student at Parkside Education Center, and Jillian Frank, a third-grade student at S.S. Palmer Elementary, couldn't get enough of the new equipment.

Clair, 6, and Jillian, 8, both said the playground was fun, and added they specifically enjoyed the swings and monkey bars.

Parent Robert Balch, who previously volunteered with Robert Hahn of Hahn Boys Landscaping of Palmerton to help with the playground, couldn't help but be impressed by its new look.

"It's really cool; they did a wonderful job," said Balch, as his 6-year-old daughter, Amelia Balch, perched herself up on the monkey bars. "I'm all for anything you can do to make it more fun and enjoyable for the kids."

Refreshments were served after the ceremony in the SS Palmer cafeteria.

In April, the school board accepted a check in the amount of $12,937 to purchase the equipment. The funds were raised through a combination of private donations and community fundraisers.

Along with recess, the playground is also used heavily for a summer program hosted by the Palmerton Area Recreation Committee.