Moore families came together Nov. 8 to celebrate “America’s favorite park,” and the hefty sum of cash that Coca-Cola is sending to restore it to its pre-tornado glory.

Just in time for Veterans Day, the Moore Parks and Recreation department hosted a celebration at Veterans Memorial Park, which had been voted “America’s favorite park” earlier this year.

This summer, people from Moore, Oklahoma, and around the country logged their hours spent at parks to help Veterans Memorial Park win first place for a $100,000 recreation grant from the Coca-Cola America Is Your Park campaign.

Veterans Memorial Park was one of the hardest hit parks in the city, and the disaster struck shortly after the city had invested in major improvements to the park in recent years. The city will use the grant to build a playground so that families can be active together.

Coca-Cola representatives and elected officials were on hand to present the City of Moore and Mayor Glenn Lewis with an oversized check. Among the officials were Congressman Tom Cole, State Representative Paul Wesselhoft, Kathy Griffith, Moore Veterans Park Committee, and several Coca-Cola representatives.

Veterans from several wars sat front and center as speakers acknowledged the veterans’ service to their country and praised how the community rallied together to restore the park, which remembers those who served.

Jim Tessloff, a veteran who served two tours in Iraq and who attended with his young family, said it was great that the grant money was chosen to bring back Veterans Park.

“I know that there are a couple of other parks that got hit, but it is nice to see that the city chose to honor veterans by putting this park back together with the money,” he said

The group then walked over to the site where the new playground will be installed in 2014. But this is only the beginning. City officials have estimated $600,000 in damages was done to the park by the tornado. Besides the playground, picnic shelters as well as walking trails were devastated. The city will pay with insurance money and other city funds for fully cleaning and rebuilding the park.

Lewis used the opportunity to thank all citizens of Moore for their hard work in bringing the city back after the storm.

“We’re not only here for the veterans but the citizens of Moore,” Lewis said, as the group of hardhat-clad officials got ready to put their golden shuffles into the ground for the ceremonial groundbreaking.

“We’re impressed how this community came together,” said Jim Marvel of Great Plains Coca-Cola. “Mayor Lewis, we want you to know you will always have friends at Coca-Cola.”

After the speeches, elected officials, Coca-Cola executives, families and veterans did what a park is intended for: All sat together for a picnic of Subway sandwiches, soda and cake.

Coca-Cola handed out small prizes and Coca-Cola Frisbees, a popular gift among the smallest park guests.

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