Members of Leadership Lincoln’s Class of 2018 gathered at South Lincoln Sportsplex Sunday to mark the completion of their class project and dedicate their work to the late Adm. Frank B. Kelso, II.

The project, erecting rails around the tops bleachers around three of the fields at the Sportsplex, was all about safety and giving back to the community, said Nathan Browning, a member of the class, during Sunday’s dedication.

“We had discussed several ideas, and one of those brought forward concerned the safety of our kids,” said Browning as he described how the project was selected by the class. “We wanted to do something to give back to our community, something that would benefit the kids and help in the future.”

Identifying the estimated costs of the project, class members set out to raise $5,000, holding fundraisers during Host of Christmas Past and the Slawburger Festival and then holding a roadblock for the project’s benefit.

“It was David Golden’s idea,” he said, referring to a fellow class member and principal of Flintville School. “It was a class effort as we all worked through the year to raise money and then complete the project … It took all 21 of us, but I believe it’s one of the best examples of collaboration between South Lincoln Sportsplex, Leadership and the whole community, and it resulted in a better environment for everyone.

“Hopefully, another class will be able to add on to what we’ve done,” Browning said.

Brad Shelton, president of South Lincoln Sportsplex, expressed he and his board’s appreciation to the Leadership Lincoln class for their work.

“I know when we got started, I had given you guys a wish list on what we needed,” he said. “Three of four years ago, we had a three-year-old fall off the top of the bleachers, and that’s a big reason why safety and these rails were on our list … She was Medflighted to Vanderbilt and is fine now, but as you can see, that’s a pretty big drop, so we want to thank you for what you all have done for us.

“We’re trying to continue to make this park better and better every year, and what Leadership Lincoln has done has gone a long way in that,” he added.

The class dedicated its project to the late Adm. Kelso, the nation’s 24th Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), who was from Fayetteville and returned to his hometown after a 38-year career, during which he served all over the world, on six submarines, commanded the U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School and worked his way up to Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command, before becoming CNO.

Dwight Lowdermilk, a member of Leadership Lincoln’s Class of 2018 and also a veteran of the U.S. Navy, unveiled a plaque honoring the admiral and spoke during Sunday’s dedication. The plaque, which hangs on the central structure at South Lincoln now, was donated by Higgins Funeral Home, he noted.

“Adm. Kelso was very involved with Leadership Lincoln,” said Lowdermilk, recalling frequent occasions when the admiral spoke to classes. “On our history day, we go to the museum, and he would be the one who would talk to you about the history of the museum.

“Our class wanted to leave something here as a mark of what he did, not just for Leadership Lincoln but for our community and our country as well,” he added.

Adm. Kelso retired in 1994, and he and his wife, Landess, moved back to Fayetteville in 2003. He passed away June 23, 2013, leaving a legacy of accomplishments and relations here and across the nation.