NewGrass™ has helped make playtime nicer, greener and safer for toddlers at a 100-year-old non-profit day care center in San Jose, Calif.

NewGrass™ offered its modern artificial grass at its own cost to help St. Elizabeth’s Day Home turn its hard-dirt, potentially unsafe and nearly barren toddler play area into a year-round expanse of
child-friendly green lawn.

“Now, they can run, tumble and get right up and start again,” said St. Elizabeth’s Executive Director Dianna Ballesteros.
Perhaps equally important, the artificial lawn is so natural-feeling that it has given the toddler’s a whole new world to explore – a world in which to nurture their own natural curiosity.

“One of the developmental areas of toddlers is that they behave as if the whole world exists for only them,” Ballesteros said. “And in this yard, they can become fully engaged regardless of all their needs and be safe and happy explorers!”

As it was, the St. Elizabeth’s toddlers area at best offered a rugged, uninviting terrain. At worst, the tract was completely unusable in winter, when seasonal rains turned it into a plot of muddy soil.

“Toddlers are quite capable little people and can get into serious trouble exploring their environments,” Ballesteros said. “But with the (new synthetic) yard, they can freely explore and are less likely to get injured. We are very pleased with the installation.”

The toddler play area was unable to support turf grass, Ballesteros said. As an option, the school tried using rubber mulch as infill on the surface. The mulch seemed to prevent injuries and was safer than the hard dirt ground that the children had to play on before. But at the same time, the ground rubber pellets presented another problem: The youngest children would put the small pieces of rubber in their mouths.

“Many families and parents realize that (the toddler age) is a time when they have to ‘child proof’ the environment for safety,” Ballesteros said. “Well, we feel like we child–proofed their toddler yard with the installation of NewGrass.”

Based on bids the center had received from area landscapers, St. Elizabeth’s thought it would need close to $20,000 to install a quality artificial grass for its toddler’s area. It was money the center didn’t have.

St. Elizabeth’s was founded in 1907 by the Sisters of the Holy Family to provide care for needy children. A United Way agency, the center has grown from an initial enrollment of 39 children to nearly 200 today.

In response to an article in the San Jose Mercury News about the school’s need for a safe, year-round play area for its toddlers, readers donated $12,000 to the project. The Kiwanis Club of San Jose had already donated $5,000.

A project supervisor and two installers from STC (Synthetic Turf Company), a NewGrass™ distributor in Scottsdale, traveled to San Jose to install the new play area free of charge. Jos. J. Albanese, Inc. Concrete Construction, of San Jose, supplied the base material and prepared the site for the installation.

In the end, St. Elizabeth’s was able to pay for the entire project with the money donated by the Kiwanis Club and Mercury News readers – thanks to the help of NewGrass™, STC and Albanese Concrete.

“Toddlers are always in the act of ‘wow’ – discovering their world,” Ballesteros continued. “Now they can walk, toddle, push toys and can easily possess the yard in totality!”

Trevor Brooks, NewGrass vice president of marketing, learned about St. Elizabeth’s and its need for a safe play area last December, while performing his regular daily Internet search for news about the synthetic grass industry. He saw the same article in the Mercury News that future donors to the project saw, describing the problem of the toddler’s play area and how St. Elizabeth’s wanted to install an artificial lawn there.

“I saw this article, and it said how the center relied heavily on donations and community support, and the one major improvement it really needed now was a synthetic lawn for the toddler’s area,” Brooks said.

“We’ve installed NewGrass™ in day care centers that needed it for the same reasons Ms. Ballesteros had at her center, and we’ve had great results,” Brooks said. “We saw the price St. Elizabeth’s was being quoted, and it seemed very high to us. Plus, we simply believe every child should have a safe, clean place to play. So we thought, hey, we can really help out here and offer the job at our cost.”

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