Charlie Cushman was once a curly-haired little boy running around the yard outside of Sand Tots preschool in Redondo Beach.

His mom is a teacher there and his family has been a part of the school's community for many years. 

That’s why the now 16-year-old decided to build something special: a pergola in the school's yard. 

“I grew up being a part of this community and it’s awesome to give back to something that built me,” Cushman said.

It took the Hermosa Beach native five days of actual construction and more than a month of planning to create the structure.

The pergola—made of western red cedar wood, which is naturally resistant to pests, according to Cushman—will provide shade for the school’s outdoor programs, including a butterfly garden. 

“We recently started an afternoon enrichment program, so we definitely have a need for more structures that provide outdoor shade,” said Director Sandra Rojas. “Now the children can put tables here, interact with the garden and watch the butterflies hatch.

“It’s beautiful and it just makes you gravitate outdoors,” she added of the pergola. 

Cushman, who is on the way to earning his Eagle Scout Award for the project, spearheaded the effort from the planning to construction, which included contacting Outdoor Living Today, the maker of the pergola, and overseeing some 20 volunteers who helped in assembling it. 

“I gave a safety briefing the day of to make sure everything went smoothly and safely,” Cushman explained. “I came up with all the jobs and tasks that had to be done, delegated out the work for people to do.”

He is hoping the new addition to the yard will encourage the preschoolers to be more active. 

“It’ll just kind of add to the beauty of Sand Tots and make it even more memorable,” he said. 

The pergola also won’t be the last of Cushman’s philanthropic contributions to the community.

As the local teen heads into his junior year at Chadwick School, an independent school on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, he plans to continue volunteering. 

“I think just go ahead and do it,” Cushman advised to others looking to give back. “It’s awesome to leave your mark on the community.”

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