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Carrie Underwood returns to Checotah to build playground

Oklahoma native Carrie Underwood's nonprofit foundation funded project at elementary school in her hometown of Cheoctah.
BY BRANDY MCDONNELL Modified: October 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm •  Published: October 14, 2011

“You see the schedule, and you're like, ‘Yeah, right, we're not gonna build an entire playground from 8:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon. Not gonna happen.' But it totally did. We had time to spare,” she said. “It's been amazing.”

In the past 15 years, KaBOOM! has built more than 2,000 playgrounds across the country, Morgan said, and the organization has the process down to a science.

She'll make more stops in state

Along with installing the playground, Underwood and the other volunteers rebuilt the raised beds and made other improvements to the community garden, crafted decorative letters for the fence, put in a running path, built trash can holders and painted the U.S. and world maps.

Wearing a bright yellow button with the slogan “I earned this backache,” the “American Idol” winner said she did a little bit of everything except mixing cement on the project.

“I painted, I mulched, I shoveled,” she said, examining the paint under her fingernails. “My legs hurt. I'm not gonna lie. When this says, ‘I earned this backache,' it's not lying. I'm probably gonna have one.”

Her hometown won't be her last stop of Underwood's weekend visit to Oklahoma. On Saturday, she will visit Northeastern State University, where she will ride in the homecoming parade, attend the football game and receive a distinguished alumnus honor during halftime.

“‘I'm gonna feel so stinkin' old. I just know I am. It doesn't feel like college is that far away, but I guess it was,” she said. “I haven't been back to Tahlequah in a while, so I'm excited.”

She also expressed excitement about upcoming projects she is considering for her C.A.T.S. Foundation, which previously has donated more than $100,000 in musical instruments to the school band program and renovated the local animal shelter, where she adopted her dachshund mix, Penny.

“You are loved a whole bunch,” Underwood told the students after the playground was completed. “There was a lot of sweat going on today, and there's gonna be a lot of sore backs here tomorrow, and it's all because everybody out here loves you guys so much.”