Brody Powell, of Brookport, Illinois, is like most other 9-year-old boys. But, for the past four months, he has been up to a lot of ‘monkey business’. Only the monkey business he has been a part of has been anything but childish or silly. In fact, Brody has identified a need to help improve his local park, set a plan into motion to make that improvement, and is on the brink of seeing his idea come to fruition.
Occasionally Brody and his dad, Brandon, and mom, Amanda, will drive around town in their golf cart to friends’ houses or to the Brookport City Park, where they will spend time and Brody and his friends play. The park has benches, a swing set, a play area for small children, some small arches with bars, but it is missing something Brody thought needed to be there — monkey bars.
The fourth-grader at Brookport Elementary School says his favorite subject in school is language arts. He loves doing flips on the monkey bars at school, but when he and his family are driving around town, they don’t usually make a special trip to the school’s playground to spend time or to play. Most often, they end up at the city park.
The park has the small arches with bars, but “you can’t hardly do those [flips] with those little arch things,” Brody said. “I thought, ‘We need monkey bars.’”
That gave Brody an idea to start a fundraiser to help purchase the monkey bars for the park. Last October, the Powells held a yard sale. Brody had a lemonade stand set up that day and sold some of his toys. At the end of the yard sale, Brody had a $100 profit from some of the sales of his toys, along with some money given to him from his family.
“And we didn’t even sell a gallon of lemonade,” he said. “I got a bunch of $9 tips.”
That first $100 of profit became seed money to launch his fundraising campaign. In November, Brody made an appearance at the Brookport City Council meeting. He told Mayor Rance Phillips and council members about his idea of raising money to purchase monkey bars for the park. “I was very nervous,” he confessed. But after his presentation to the council, Brody said the mayor and the aldermen were on board with his idea.
Brody has had donation jars set up at various locations throughout Brookport, including the City Clerk’s Office, the Bridge Inn and the Blue Dog Barber Shop.
Brody’s Monkey Bars Fundraiser has received donations from the Brookport Senior Citizens, Brookport Betterment Committee, private donations, as well as a $500 donation from the Metropolis Kiwanis Club.
Brody has become well-known in the Brookport area and beyond. He has been in three newspapers and on the news talking about his monkey bars project. In fact, after his photo appeared in the Metropolis Planet, he received a check in the mail for $25 from a couple who read about him in the paper. “It was my first mailed-in donation,” says Brody.
He recalls one day getting a donation in the mail from Georgia. That donor is the aunt of the Powell’s friend and owner of the Blue Dog Barber Shop. She had sent money all the way from Georgia for his fundraiser.
Amanda points out Brody has filled out handwritten thank you notes to all of donors who have contributed money toward the project.
The cost of buying the monkey bars was $2200, and to date, Brody’s campaign has raised $2700. Amanda explained that the monkey bars can only be ordered through certain companies that are approved for playground equipment for municipal parks. The monkey bars coming to Brookport will be purchased through a company in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The monkey bars will be for 5 to 8-year-olds and will be 16 feet long. The actual cost of the monkey bars is $1200, but the freight cost alone is $950. Brandon, half-jokingly, says that a road trip might be in order.
Amanda says the monkey bars will actually arrive sometime this spring, likely after spring break. But the fundraiser will continue through the first of April.
When the monkey bars arrive, it won’t be city employees installing them either. Brody emphatically says it will be him and his dad who will be putting them up with the help of post hole diggers and some cement. “Me and Daddy will do it. One of my friends asked if he could help and I told him he couldn’t do that. I want to do it on my own,” he said.
As the fundraising continues until April, Brody says he and his parents will look at using any of the extra collected funds to make additional upgrades at the park. A couple of possibilities would be swing set upgrades, such as new seats or chains.
Anyone wishing to donate may mail checks to Brody’s Monkey Bars Project, c/o Brody Powell, 6703 Unionville Rd., Brookport, IL 62910 or anyone with PayPal may donate to the fundraiser by using Amanda’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, tax deductible checks may be sent to the Brookport Betterment Committee, with Brody’s Monkey Bars Project written on the memo line on the check.
Brody has reached the $2200 goal and says, “It feels great. I’m proud of it.”
He says if any other young people read about his story and want to do something like this, his advice is simple. “I would probably say think about what you want, put the idea into motion, and start raising funds.”