CAMDEN - Principal Lana Murray had tears in her eyes as she thanked over 150 volunteers who came to beautify U.S. Wiggins Family School.
Employees from the Philadelphia 76ers, Virtua and United Way teamed up at the school early Friday to give back to the community in the fourth annual “Project 76 Day.”
With music blasting to keep energies high, volunteers spent hours in the heat painting the school's interior and exterior, installing basketball nets, cleaning, and landscaping the garden.
“It’s transformative to the climate of the school,” said Andrew Adams, manager of the school operations at Wiggins. “Camden schools are on the rise and we want our buildings to be reflective of that.”
The 76ers and Virtua have been in this partnership for four years, according to Amy Hever, the basketball team's executive director of community engagement. “This is something we look forward to each and every year and it brings our staff together as one team,” she said.
Volunteer Kayla Mercado, 22, a Sixers employee from Cherry Hill, said: “We’re a fun culture. We’re always willing to help each other in the office and obviously outside, so it's just a representation of who we are inside the office and how we can help in the community.”
This was United Way’s second year participating in the project, according to Julie Murphy, the organization's vice president of corporate partnerships.
“When you come back to school, you don't want to come back to a dreary place," Murphy said. "This is exciting to come in to and it’s clean, it’s renewed.”
The project unfolded in an energetic environment despite temperatures hovering around 90 degrees.
"They're sweating, they're having fun, they're on their hands and knees cleaning up paint,” Murphy said.
Al Campanella, the chief operating officer for Virtua, believes the project pairs up some great teams.
“We’re selective with who we partner with and we felt the 76ers and United Way share our same core values and have a deep commitment to the community,” he said. “When the students come back, they'll be amazed because they're going to see a school that's brighter, freshly painted, and it makes it that much easier for them to learn.”
After hours of hard work, the volunteers gathered in the school’s cafeteria for some lunch and a pep rally led by the 76ers Dunk Squad.
Sixers President Chris Heck told the crowd he's happy to be a part of the Camden community, which is home to the team's headquarters.
“All your work whether you’re painting or digging up trees, it matters,” he said.