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Falcons Team with Volunteers to Update Atlanta Playground

When volunteers from the Rise Up Atlanta event with Park Pride took on the Ashby Circle Play Lot on Tuesday morning, they received an unexpected surprise along with some much needed extra hands to complete the job.

Players that included Joe Hawley, Garrett Reynolds, Justin Blalock, Harland Gunn, Dominique Franks, Chase Coffman, Kevin Cone, Josh Harris and Lamar Holmes, along with Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders, showed up to offer help in updating the children's playground that was overdue for some renovations.

The volunteers were mostly employees of Akamai Technologies, a company that was co-founded by Danny Lewin. Lewin was aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, and is known to be the first victim of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"Around Sept. 11, we always do this in his honor and have a Danny Lewin community day to give back," said Collie Smith, an employee of the company. "We're thrilled to be a part of it. Like the Falcons, we believe you're only as successful as an organization as the community wants you to be. Having the Falcons players here, it gives you extra energy."

The players and volunteers participated in activities such as painting different parts of the playground, mulching, removing invasive and overgrown plants, building birdhouses and installing benches.

Gloria Smith, who for several years has lived in a bright green house that overlooks the playground, sat on one of these benches amid the busy work and couldn't help but smile as she looked around. Smith recalled how she's been dreaming of seeing these improvements happen in her beloved neighborhood for years and points out the immense progress it had after the work that was put into it on Tuesday.

"This is one of the areas that people never even considered could come back," Smith said. "It means a lot to have everyone together. This will uplift children's spirits and bring more pride to this neighborhood."

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