By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM —Nearly 250 children clapping and cheering was enough to make Alan Phair feel like a kid again.
When the Boys & Girls Club of Salem dedicated its new gymnasium floor with the help of donors and its young members yesterday, Phair, a member of the club’s board of directors, couldn’t help but celebrate with the rest.
He embraced Kiwanis Club president Wilfred Bamford as they were greeted by the jubilant crowd of children, some holding large handmade thank-you cards.
The long-awaited dedication ceremony marked the culmination of a construction project launched in August as the club sought to replace its worn gym floor. In the hallway, Bamford used an oversized pair of scissors to snip a large blue ribbon before he and Phair met the children inside the gymnasium.
The two men were accompanied by about two dozen other supporters of the $70,000 renovation project, including club Chief Professional Officer Michael Centor.
“Untouched by human feet until a merely few short minutes ago,” Centor said, leading the group onto the new wooden floor.
Only minutes earlier, Centor gathered the supporters in a classroom at the club and thanked them for making the project possible. He warned them about what to expect. This would be the first time the children could use the gym in five weeks.
“They have been itching to get in this gym and they hadn’t been in there yet,” he said. “I hope this puts a smile on your faces.”
Phair, Bamford and the others grinned when they saw the fruits of their efforts — and the throng of happy children who thanked them.
After the two men hugged and gave the children a thumbs-up sign, Phair dashed for a basketball.
So did some of the other men. Young boys ran out onto the shiny maple floor as well.
For several minutes, the men and boys shot baskets, but missed their shots. The other children clapped and cheered even louder than before.
Finally, Alfredo DaCunha, 9, of Salem received the distinction of making the first shot on the new gym floor.
“It’s really good,” Alfredo said of the floor.
Charles Murphy, 10, of Salem, agreed.
“It’s amazing,” he said.
After Phair missed several shots, he decided he had enough.
“I am getting too old,” he said. “I give up.”
But minutes later, he was at it again, playing one-on-one.
“It’s absolutely phenomenal,” Phair said of the floor. “They will be able to use it for a long time.”
The major contributors to the project were the Kiwanis Club, the Knights of Columbus and the Arlington Pond Protective Association.