August 11, 2017

Everything is GaGa at Windham Christian Academy by Lorraine Glowczak

Windham Christian Academy (WCA) at 1051 Roosevelt Trail recently added to their playground equipment, a new GaGa Ball Pit. GaGa, a fun and easy game that is growing in popularity among young children, will add recess and physical activity options for the elementary and middle school students at WCA this coming fall. However, it has turned out to add more than an entertainment element.

High School Students help build the GaGa Pit

The story of the new GaGa Ball Pit began with an early summer trip to New Jersey where the Principal of WCA, Jaclyn Sands, was visiting her family for a few days. 

“I decided to take my children to a playground during my visit and that is where I saw this amazing GaGa Ball Pit,” explained Sands. “Seeing it at that playground and how much fun the kids were having sparked the thought that it would be a good addition to our playground at WCA. So I approached our Pastor, Tony Searles, with the idea. He told me if I could find a way to get the required lumber needed to build the pit, he would give the green light.”

As always seems to be the case for most schools, funding or the lack thereof, can create a challenge on the road from idea to reality. As Sands share her idea with other WCA staff members, part-time Spanish Teacher, Steve Pratt thought he might have an idea to get the required lumber needed. It just so happens that Pratt also works full-time at Hancock Lumber.

“Steve approached Hancock Lumber to see if they might consider making a small donation,” Sands explained. “They didn’t hesitate. They gave us all the lumber that was required to build the pit”
The next step and challenge included the time and effort it took to build the octagonal shaped play area. Industrial Arts Teacher and Director of Maintenance, Bob Berry, was willing to take time from his regular busy schedule to construct the pit but he could not do it himself. “I called on the high school students to see if they would be up to help out,” said Berry. “They were there to assist immediately.”

What began as a simple idea to help expand the WCA playground, turned into a community effort of giving and support.

Hancock Lumber shared a statement in regards to their contribution to the GaGa Ball Pit. “Helping support Windham Christian Academy by donating building materials is an extension of who Hancock Lumber is. A core part of our mission is to support local area organizations—Team Hancock is proud to be involved in our surrounding communities.” 

Regarding the popularity of this new favorite pastime, GaGa, "became popular among Jewish camps during the 1970's and has seen a huge resurgence recently at camps, schools, and youth activity centers outside of the Jewish community. GaGa actually translates from Hebrew as "touch-touch" and is a variation on dodgeball. To some it is known as Israeli Dodgeball, Octo-Ball, or Panda Ball. It is commonly believed that the game was brought to the U.S. Jewish summer camps by Israeli camp counselors.” (

The purpose of the game is to eliminate opponents by hitting them with the ball below the knee (or
waist) while trying to avoid being hit yourself. The game can include a large number of children at one time and is a fast-paced, high energy game that keeps children interested for hours at a time.

The benefits of the game include the development of multiple physical skills, strategic thinking and hand-eye coordination all the while keeping children physically active.

As for the high school students who gave a few days of their summer to help build a fun space for the younger students at WCA,  Berry used the time wisely to teach them about the importance of realizing a dream. “I’m always teaching my students that whatever they put their mind to, with the Lord’s help, they can accomplish anything.”

What began as a simple idea on a New Jersey playground became real, as a result a community of individuals who went above and beyond their call of duty. It’s almost as if the idea of the pit itself became a game of “touch-touch”, where one step touched another until it became reality.

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