When Lompoc brothers Boss and Beau Brockett visit their grandmother’s home, one of their favorite things to do is run across the street to play on the swings at the city-owned Pioneer Park.
Some of the fun of those trips was lost late last year, however, when the swings were damaged and then ultimately removed by city workers, who left the bare pole as the sole piece of evidence that the swings were once there. Rather than complain about their unexpected disappointment, though, the boys — who have a history of community activism and fundraising — decided to do something about it.
Six-year-old Boss and 5-year-old Beau initially went to their mother, Christina Brockett, and asked her if they could just buy new swings for the park.
“I told them we don’t have money for the swings, and they were like, ‘Well, if everyone pitches in, then we can have the swings,’” Christina recalled of that conversation, which took place about two months ago. “So we told them they needed to start asking people for help — and they did.”
The boys launched their quest by going with their grandmother, Leslie Hale, to City Hall to seek guidance from the mayor and/or the parks department. They said they were told by a parks manager that the city didn’t have the funding to address Pioneer Park right away.
Although that wasn’t the answer they were hoping for, the trip to City Hall still proved fruitful.
While at the city offices, Hale and the boys took inspiration from the large “Pennies for Playgrounds” drum located near the receptionist desk, and decided they’d start a “Pennies for Pioneer Park” drive on their own. They began by walking around the neighborhood with Hale and asking for pennies. As the drive gained momentum, and word began to spread about their efforts, the money started pouring in.
The boys turned over about $350 to Mayor Bob Lingl at the Feb. 6 Lompoc City Council meeting but continued collecting. To help with the cause, their mother started a GoFundMe on Thursday — it can be accessed at www.gofundme.com/pennies-for-pioneer-park — and in less than 24 hours that had brought in an additional $430, leading Christina to raise the goal on the site from $500 to $1,000.
“I think it’s just amazing what the two of you have been doing,” Lingl told the boys during a brief presentation at the meeting, where they received a cheerful ovation from the audience. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of you.
“This is just an example of 'It doesn’t matter who you are, you can make a difference,'” he added.
Hale said taking initiative and making a difference is nothing new for her grandsons, particularly Boss.
Last summer, Boss came up with the idea for him and his brother to start a lemonade stand so they could raise money that he and Beau could then use to buy toys to gift to some of the children living in the nearby Bridgehouse Shelter, which is operated by Good Samaritan Inc.
That lemonade stand raised about $100 and the boys personally shopped for the toys that they then delivered to the shelter.
“He just comes up with these ideas,” Hale said of Boss. “He keeps thinking of ways to help people. … He just wants to give people what he has.”
Christina agreed with that sentiment and called Boss “a natural helper and giver.”
“I feel like it’s natural (for him), but we’re always trying to help,” she said. “We donate books to doctors' offices and we give to Goodwill all the time. He’ll go through his room and be like, ‘Mom, we can give these books to charity.’
“That’s Boss,” she added. “I would like to say that it came from me, but I don’t really talk to him that much about things like this.”
She said Beau is more of the entrepreneur of the duo. As an example, she pointed to a time that Beau made some books at home. Right away, she said, he attempted to go sell them to neighbors.
“He’s all about doing things and making money,” she said of Beau, “so they’re a good little team.”
The swing of things
The boys and their mother and grandmother have tried to stay in contact with city parks employees to find out just how much money will be needed to replace the swings. Christina said the city hasn’t been super helpful with cost estimates — “they probably have other things to do, which is understandable,” she acknowledged — so she started investigating herself.
She said she found what appeared to be the same swing set listed online for about $2,000, which is what the boys are targeting.
Christina suggested that the city may have a warranty on the equipment or, perhaps, could fix the issue at a lesser cost. In that case, she said, any extra money raised by her sons will be given to the city to address other issues at Pioneer Park.
Hale, whose home is across from the park, said there’s a lot of other things that can be done at the park. Among her suggestions: a new trash can lid, so that birds — and people — don’t leave litter everywhere; more frequent landscaping; and doing something about the port-a-potty situation, which she said draws suspected drug users who then rest in the park after using the toilets.
She also said she’d like to see more done to remove graffiti from the playground equipment. Currently, she said that she and other neighbors go scrub off profanity when they see it.
“The words on the slide and inside the fort were words that these kids shouldn’t learn,” she said of a recent cleanup. “It was horrible.”
Hale said the park should get more attention from the city, if for nothing else, due to its proximity to Fillmore Elementary School immediately to the north and a children’s baseball field to the south.
“It’s ridiculous that a park connected to so many kids is not being maintained,” she said.
Hitting the road
Hale said the boys quickly found success when she led them on the walks to solicit pennies from area residents.
One donor, she said, gave the boys an old sock that he had been using for years to collect pennies.
Others, she said, chose to donate in denominations larger than 1 cent.
“(Beau) got so excited that he got a $5 bill from one of the neighbors, instead of pennies, that he knocked me over in this guy’s front yard,” Hale said with a laugh.
Christina said she initially thought her mom and sons were being dramatic when they’d talk about how much people wanted the swings replaced at the park. That all changed on one of her own recent visits to the park.
“There was a like 11-year-old boy here and I overheard him say, ‘This park is so boring without the swings. What am I supposed to do?’” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Kids really do care about it.’”
Another man, she said, pulled his car over while the boys were collecting money at the park and told them that he stopped bringing his kids to Pioneer Park when the swings were lost. He said he heard about the boys’ drive and felt compelled to donate.
“A lot of people have been supportive,” Christina said.
Assist from the chief
Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh is among those who have expressed support for the boys.
Walsh said he briefly met the boys before that Feb. 6 City Council meeting and was inspired by them when he later learned why they were there. He called the brothers “heroes.”
“Several of us from the (Police Department) donated the next week, as did others in the community,” Walsh said Friday. “These are the kinds of stories that make Lompoc such a special place.”
Walsh, who has offered to give the boys a tour of the Lompoc Police station, was so impressed by the boys that he posted a photo of their City Council appearance, along with a brief description of what they were doing, to his “lompoc_police_chief” Instagram page.
Hale said Walsh told her about that particular post’s popularity — it had drawn 175 “heart” clicks as of Friday evening — and she said she was hopeful that was indicative of how many people wanted to help.
“I don’t know what Instagram is, but (Walsh) said the boys had become Instagram celebrities and that the city wants to help,” Hale said. “So we’re hoping that we get enough for two swings. That’s all we’re asking for.”
While Walsh’s online post might have attracted some extra donations for the boys, he doesn’t consider it as help.
“I do not think these boys need much help,” he said. “They strike me as the type of young men that see a problem and look for solutions. This is the type of parenting that develops our next great people in the world — mentoring them to find a solution, rather than finding a scapegoat to blame for the problem.
“The world needs more Boss and Beaus,” he added. “Get off the social media rant, stop looking to find blame, and do something for others.”
Boss said he was “2-percent nervous” while standing in the spotlight at the City Council meeting. Christina said some people have suggested to her son that he might one day be the mayor. Boss, however, said his eyes are on another title.
“I want to be president; Beau can be mayor,” he said Thursday during a break from playing at Pioneer Park.
After his brother objected to that scenario, Boss agreed to let Beau serve as his vice president.
Before getting to the White House, though, Boss said he was looking forward to having the swings back at his favorite park.
“I know there’ll be hugs and people will be happy,” he said of the day that the swinging returns.
Christina said she believes the entire experience can prove valuable for her young sons.
“What I think is cool is that if they do achieve their goal, it’s gonna be such a good learning experience for them,” she said. “When I was younger, we’d go on vacation and I remember we’d stop in New Cuyama and the park was so ‘blegh.’ I was like, ‘Oh, this town is kinda nasty,’ you know?’
“So, if kids come here and they don’t see the swings, they’re gonna be like, ‘My community — blegh,’” she added. “But, if they ask for these swings and the community helps them get them, then it makes them feel like, ‘Oh, my community — it’s pretty awesome.’”