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"Play is invaluable in returning a sense of safety, normalcy, and health." Courtney, KaBOOM! Project Manager
In honor of both the National Day of Service and Inspiration Monday, I have a very special story to share with you.
One of the things I like best about KaBOOM! is that no two playgrounds we build are the same. Every one is custom-designed by the kids and families who will use it, tailored to the needs of that specific community.
And for one particular playground build with SUPERVALU in Bakersfield, Calif. on Oct. 29, the community had very specific needs that needed to be met. This playground was built to serve an after-school program for children with autism. And, well, I'll let Ramona Puget, who runs the program, explain what a difference it made:
This playground has been a blessing for this program. Our students did not have an outdoor activity other than riding bikes to play on and dirt to kick a ball on. For autistic children this is not really motivating for them, nor do they have the coordination to do these activities real well. They need to be very active in running, and manipulating objects. With the sensory component of the bells, xylophone, drums, climbing structure and movement of the bus, it helps them to control those areas they have strong points in.
The children who would not play are PLAYING with others on the structure, and not just parallel play. The joy and excitement we see in their overall personalities is priceless. They are happy, elated with a sense of pride that this is their playground and they look forward to coming to "Fun School"! The other day it was a little windy, and started to drizzle, and the children were upset because they did not want to come in because they were having so much fun. So through the wind and drizzle we continued to play and had a day of unexpected play weather. Nothing can stop them from enjoying this playground, not even the elements.
Do you have experience working with kids with autism? What would your dream playground for them look like?
Inspiration Monday is a regular KaBOOM! blog feature.
With the holiday season winding down and a new year fast approaching, we figured that the good cheer shouldn’t have to dwindle! It’s in this spirit that we give you the last Inspiration Monday of 2009. But don’t worry! There are plenty of great stories to continue into 2010, and many more memories to be made!
There's something to be said about the physical transformation of a space that happens when a brand new playground is built. What one might not realize, however, is that when a community works together to accomplish this task, the greatest transformation tends to be something intangible: the changing of minds.
Such a change occurred in the city of La Habra, Calif. following its playground build at Corona Park on Aug. 15. It was here that 214 adult volunteers and 50 children (playing games and wielding paintbrushes for their own 1x1 murals) came together to turn an empty lot where gangs tended to congregate into a safe haven of community pride and fellowship. A week following the opening, one of the residents who was asked about how the playground looked stated that she hadn’t been able to see the playground due to the number of kids enjoying it!
However, the lasting effect has been on the neighborhood as a whole. Followers have become leaders. There have been stories of neighbors putting aside their disputes and using the park as a place of gathering and camaraderie. In an area usually full of gang activity, there hasn’t been a single instance of vandalism on the site and, in fact, it seems to be protected from such occurrences as a safe place for the children. Gangs have dissipated because parents are actually sitting outside with their kids. There’s always someone to watch over the playground and keep it clean and neat, and the park has even become the host to numerous activities including monthly community meetings (with higher attendance than ever)!
"Inspiration Monday" is a new, regular KaBOOM! blog feature.
KaBOOM! Chief Financial Officer Gerry Megas was honored by the Washington Business Journal as the region’s Non-Profit CFO of the Year on Wednesday evening.
Selected over stiff competition, Gerry’s contributions have led KaBOOM! to a more secure financial situation and increased its operating reserve by bringing in his experience from the for-profit sector as a CPA and CFO for U.S. Foodservice.
Joining KaBOOM! in 2006, Gerry initiated a number of changes in accounting, budgeting and financial controls to ensure the stability of the organization, helping to almost double its contribution to net assets from $907,000 in 2007 to $1.5 million in 2008. In 2007, Gerry established a financial plan that increased the KaBOOM! organizational operating reserve from a capacity of two months to nine months by the end of 2008.
NBC's "Parks & Recreation" is a comedy starring Amy Poehler (from "Saturday Night Live") as Leslie Knope, a parks and recreation official who wants to build a new playground.
Of course, we've always known that if Leslie would just check out KaBOOM!, we could help her get that playground built. Turns out that producers at "Parks and Recreation" had the same idea, and decided to feature KaBOOM! on the show.
On this episode, which aired Oct. 22, 2009, Leslie and her team visited the nearby city of Eagleton and the KaBOOM! build taking place there. At first, Leslie is skeptical that a playground can actually be built in one day, but as she witnesses the transformation, she catches the KaBOOM! spirit and becomes even more determined to get her playground built. “Parks & Recreation” featured KaBOOM! in the episode as part of NBC’s participation in the Entertainment Industry Foundations (EIF) drive to feature volunteering across all networks called “iParticipate.”
Thanks to NBC and the producers of “Parks & Recreation” for inviting us to be a part of the fun. We hope you enjoy the episode, and we hope that you take a moment to check out the many ways you can get involved.
As mentioned in a previous post, KaBOOM! will be featured on Thursday’s episode of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” You can help us spread the word! If you’ve got a blog, write a post about it in advance of the episode (feel free to use the text from our previous blog post), and if you’re on Twitter, here are some sample tweets you can send:
Yay for play! Amy Poehler gets inspired by @kaboomplay on Thu.’s ep of “Parks and Recreation” – watch it! #playoutdoors
I’m going to watch @kaboomplay on #parksandrec Thursday on NBC - 8:30 PM EST/PST (7:30 PM CST)! Join me!
Did you know @kaboomplay will be featured on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” as part of the “I Participate” campaign? Check it out Thu. nite!
You can also spread the word on Facebook with your status message. How about something like this?
Did you know KaBOOM! will be featured on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” as part of the “I Participate” campaign? Check it out Thursday nite! http://bit.ly/3C0lk0
If you have a watch party, take some photos and email them to us - we may post them on the site!
Also, if you’re on Twitter, we’ll be live-tweeting the episode on Thursday. Be sure to check it out!
I've been itching to tell you about this, and finally the cat's out of the bag. Coming this October, as part of the Entertainment Industry Foundation's volunteer week (which is part of the I Participate campaign), KaBOOM! will be featured on the NBC show Parks and Recreation, starring Amy Poehler!
KaBOOM! will fit into the ongoing storyline of the quest to turn an abandoned construction pit into a community park. Here's a bit more detail from a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy:
The show's producer called KaBOOM!, and the charity's founder, Darell Hammond, and other staff members have helped the show develop the episode, including sending two project managers to work with set designers to build a playground.
[Alison] Risso, [KaBOOM! director of communications,] says the portrayal of a KaBOOM! project manager in the script — which the charity reviewed for accuracy — is a tad, shall we say, exaggerated. But, she says, "it's good fun. We don't take ourselves too seriously, but we do take building playgrounds seriously. If the show can help raise the importance of play, we're all for it."
I'm really excited to see the finished product. We'll post more detail as we get closer to the airdate, so stay tuned!
KaBOOM! playground builds in the news!
Everybody loves Reverend Run, especially when he's building playgrounds! He and his wife Justine Simmons, along with KOOL-AID, helped build a great new place to play in Phoenix last week, and this blogger loved every minute of it! In the photo to the right, they're doing arts and crafts with the kids at the build.
Cruising over to the middle of the United States, our recent build with Mutual of Omaha got some nice press coverage in the Omaha World-Herald on Thursday and Friday. It was also featured on their local NBC affiliate, WOWT. It sounds like a really fun playground, too: "The new playground includes a large playscape, new tetherball poles, a sandbox and benches," says one of the World-Herald articles. "Sand and gravel pits have been replaced with grass and mulch, and volunteers installed benches for an outdoor classroom." We'll be posting photos soon, so you can see for yourself!
Meanwhile, way over in New Jersey..."Even with the rain, everybody came out excited, dedicated and ready to work," said Monique Reddick, social services coordinator for the Volunteers of America Delaware Valley's transitional housing complex, about the recent playground build in Camden.
And zooming back to Idaho..."The Kroegers gave this park to promote the growth and development of the community. Ninety years later, we're promoting the growth and development of kids," Boise resident Kathleen Fahey told the Idaho Statesman A great new playground was built in Boise on Saturday with help from Albertsons and KaBOOM!.
Go Play!: Non-Profit Organization KaBOOM! Announces List of 93 “Playful City USA” Communities
Communities Across the Country Make Play a Priority Despite Economy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Parents have less disposable income for children’s play-related activities because of the economy and funding for Parks and Recreation departments nationwide continues to dwindle during a time when 82 percent of parents believe kids don’t spend enough time playing outside.
Despite these challenges, 93 communities across the nation have taken innovative approaches to make play a priority to ensure their children have the time and space they need to play. To honor cities and towns making this commitment to play, KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing play back into children’s lives, named them Playful City USA communities.
In the third year of this annual program, 32 of 93 Playful City USA communities were repeat honorees from 2008, while 22 cities were cited for the third consecutive year. Thirty-nine new communities have joined others in making a commitment to children, including Honolulu, Indianapolis and San Antonio. These 93 communities created and implemented programs to positively impact childhood wellness, public safety and the quality of life.
Each of the 2009 Playful City USA communities demonstrated creative commitments to the cause of play in the areas of quantity, quality and access. Quality relates to the number of usable, open playspaces. Quality involves subjective factors that encourage repeated use and make playspaces engaging, exciting, interesting and fun. Access entails the ability to get to a playspace (roads, trails) and a lack of barriers to the playspace (cost, safety, traffic, locked gates, equity).
Playful City USA celebrates and highlights these unique initiatives developed by communities across the country. A primary goal of Playful City USA is to encourage cities and towns to share creative ideas, concepts and programs in an effort to increase play opportunities for children. City initiatives include:
Dothan, Ala. (pop. 65,447)
After incorporating the KaBOOM! community build model for the construction of a playground, the City decided to use this method exclusively for any future playgrounds built in Dothan. The community build model offers a great opportunity to involve neighborhoods, while saving significant costs on construction.
Indianapolis, Ind. (pop. 795,458)
The Indianapolis Parks and Recreation department is conducting a study that would involve converting abandoned housing and vacant lots and turning them into urban mini parks. This project will require that city department resources are combined to increase green spaces and remove abandoned housing, identify clusters of abandoned houses and vacant lots, identify potential mini park spaces, and host public meetings that would solicit the surrounding neighborhoods’ advice on the usage of these spaces.
Las Cruces, N.M. (pop. 86,268)
Las Cruces Public Schools launched a free program called Recess Before Lunch in 2007 to examine what benefits could result. After implementing the program, moving recess before lunch led to a significant improvement in healthy eating habits for the students, a reduction in food waste, and better focus in the classroom after lunch.
San Francisco, Calif. (pop. 808,976)
The San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Council (SFNPC) developed a Playground Report Card which analyzes and rates playspaces in San Francisco. The Report Card gave letter grades to all the playgrounds, with the San Francisco Parks and Recreation department and SFNPC then taking action by bringing all the failing parks up to standard.
Ankeny, Iowa (pop. 42,000)
As part of the Ankeny Comprehensive plan, the highest priority of Ankeny residents was to build a trail system within the community that connects to a regional trail system. The Ankeny to Woodward Trail Steering Committee secured a $1.75 million Vision Iowa grant to develop the 20 miles of trail and construct one of the world’s tallest and longest trail bridges with the project scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2009.
New York, N.Y. (pop. 8,310,212)
The New York City Parks and Recreation Department will break ground and revamp 221 playgrounds that require improvement throughout the City, while also targeting underdeveloped destination parks for each borough in 2009. This City is also working toward the creation of a public plaza in every community in partnership with non-profit groups, particularly in neighborhoods that lack open space.
The KaBOOM! vision is a great place to play within walking distance of every child. Playful City USA communities create best practices, like the ones above, to reach a similar goal. They serve as role models for other communities and prove that enhancing children’s well-being by increasing the opportunity for play is an attainable goal for every community.
“Our country is facing two monumental deficits: a lack of unstructured play among children and a lack of resources to address this very issue,” said Darell Hammond, KaBOOM! CEO and Co-founder. “These 93 communities took a stand and determined that the future of their community—their children—deserve a commitment to the cause of play. This is an investment in the future, not an expenditure and cities and towns across the country can replicate initiatives from these Playful City USA communities so that they too can bring play back into the lives of their children.”
2009 Playful City USA Communities
Baldwin Park, Calif.
Casa Grande, Ariz.
Commerce City, Colo.
Coral Gables, Fla.
Corpus Christi, Texas
Delray Beach, Fla.
#Grand Prairie, Texas
#Green River, Wyo.
#La Mesa, Calif.
*Lake Charles, La.
*Lake Worth, Fla.
Las Cruces, N.M.
#Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.
#Mercer Island, Wash.
Miami Lakes, Fla.
*New Lenox, Ill.
New Port Richey, Fla.
*New Roads, La.
#New York City, N.Y.
Niagara Falls, N.Y.
#Palm Bay, Fla.
#Safety Harbor, Fla.
#St. Petersburg, Fla.
San Antonio, Texas
San Bernardino, Calif.
*San Francisco, Calif.
Takoma Park, Md.
#West Palm Beach, Fla.
* Three-time honoree
# Two-time honoree
2009 Playful City USA Communities by State:
9: Arizona, California
5: North Carolina
4: Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland
3: Illinois, Ohio, Washington
2: Alabama, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wyoming
1: Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina
Applications for 2010 Playful City USA recognition will be available beginning in the fall of 2009.
The KaBOOM! National Campaign for Play, including the Playful City USA program, is made possible via the support of the Omidyar Network.
KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since 1995, KaBOOM! has used its innovative community-build model to bring together business and community interests to construct more than 1,600 new playgrounds, skateparks, sports fields and ice rinks across North America. KaBOOM! also offers a variety of resources, including an online community, free online trainings, grants, publications and the KaBOOM! National Campaign for Play, which includes Playful City USA and Playmakers – a national network of individual advocates for play. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! also has offices in Chicago and San Mateo, Calif. For more information, visit www.kaboom.org.
Check out this great video of KaBOOM! staffer Lisa Attman-Palmer being interviewed by Anne Pleshette Murphy on ABC News!
Here's a collection of videos covering our playground build with CaliforniaVolunteers, First Lady Michelle Obama, and California First Lady Maria Shriver on June 22. (Some of which have ads at the beginning - apologies.)
California First Lady Maria Shriver and First Lady Michelle Obama speak to playground volunteers (NBC Bay Area News):
ABC 7 local coverage:
Watch the opening session of the National Conference on Volunteering & Service LIVE (2:30 p.m. PDT June 23)