Even months after his untimely passing, a Fairfield youngster is still being a superhero for his classmates.
On Monday, Walter “Superbubz” Herbert made a new playground materialize where before there was none, all to the delight of hundreds of students at his beloved Central Elementary.
It was the first-graders’ spirited fight against cancer, which eventually claimed his life in October, that first began to inspire thousands while he was alive, and even more after his untimely death.
One of his dreams for the friends and classmates he left behind was to give them the hand-picked playground equipment his principal — Karrie Gallo — worked with him to choose in his final days.
His superhero nickname was “Superbubz,” and the young boy’s legacy delivered something super Monday during recess as students got their first chance to climb, swing and spin on new playground rides that delighted them.
“We were able to fulfill all of Superbubz’s wishes,” said Gallo as she supervised the initial crowd of Central Elementary students clamoring over the new play equipment.
“When he was sick … one of the things he talked about was adding more playground equipment, swings and teeter-toters,” said Gallo over the happy shouts of youngsters.
She said Herbert wanted to leave something behind at his school that would deliver joy to all students.
“I will never forget the days he rested in my office and he would help me go through mail and look at different school catalogs,” Gallo told this news outlet in January when a fundraiser in his name was announced.
“Whenever we talked about items to make the new Central (school) even cooler, he would light up, as if he knew that some of his suggestions would come true. I am incredibly honored that this was one of his happy places,” she recalled. “Bubz picked out the items himself. Because he chose the items, it has really meant a lot to me and to everyone who knew him. And this project also means a lot to his family.”
A memorial bench commemorating Herbert’s legacy is also part of the new playground.
Volunteers helped construct and install the new play features — doubling the size of Central’s play area — all purchased with $26,000, which far exceeded the original $15,000 goal for the “Build It For Bubz” fundraiser started earlier this year.
“I can tell Bubz is smiling down on us,” said an emotional Gallo.
Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, said the donations and creation of a new play area are heart-warming but not surprising for one of Butler County’s largest school districts, which covers the city of Fairfield and Fairfield Twp.
“Walter touched so many lives during his short time here. It’s no surprise that the community continues to show an outpouring of love and support for the students and staff at Central. That is the nature of the people who live in Fairfield and Fairfield Twp. Their generosity and giving spirit is overwhelming and appreciated,” Gentry-Fletcher said.
Gallo took a break from spinning students on a merry-go-round type device and smiled.
“They are loving every bit of it,” she said. “I think we made him (Superbubz) very proud today.”