"When we moved into our neighborhood two and a half years ago, it was (and is) still very much in the midst of recovery from Hurricane Katrina. We were immediately struck by the lack of community space...somewhere for kids and neighbors to gather, play and build relationships. Our local 'playground' – which consisted of a broken metal slide and two swing-sets with no swings – had been identified by the city government as one that needed to be rebuilt, but there was no information about how or when that was going to happen.
That’s when KaBOOM! happened. I sent off a quick email to a staff member there, Shira, and within 30 minutes we were on the phone talking about our new playground. That was late September; our playground was built on December 18th. Our playground, and Build Day, accomplished everything we thought it might – kids and adults are both meeting their neighbors and building relationships – it’s truly incredible.
When we were chosen to receive a new Imagination Playground, a set of large blue foam blocks like life-size tinker toys, I knew we were truly blessed. We take these blocks out into the community as often as we can – to schools who are still without playgrounds, to community events and our monthly movie nights. Recently I discovered that by creating a loose perimeter for the blocks kids are playing even more WITH each other, instead of just grabbing a few blocks and playing by themselves. I am humbled and so thankful for everything we’ve received from KaBOOM!."
– Alf Nelson, New Orleans, LA
Alf spoke up for the community he knew he could have, and with our help, and a lot of work, his neighborhood is thriving.
Play it forward with a donation today so we can keep building up neighborhoods like Alf’s.
“It was my first week in Boston - orientation week for new students at Boston University. As part of our schedules for the week I signed up for a child-focused service project and couldn’t help but gulp when I saw our assignment – build a new playground – in one day.
Needless to say, I was incredulous. I had NO idea how to build a playground, I wasn’t strong enough to lift anything very heavy, it was going to be an incredibly hot day, and how could we possibly build an entire playground in just one day?
But, thanks to KaBOOM!, it was exactly the opposite of what I had been afraid of. I was amazed at the diversity of people, so many of them as doubtful as I was, who came together to work as a unified force.
We came together as one, not because we knew anything about playgrounds, mulch, or mixing concrete, but because we all had the same goal – to build a great new place to play. We struggled together, worked as a team, and in just 6 hours time we watched as the kids ran out to see their new, shiny, beautiful playground. What an amazing day!”
– Genevieve Fasano, Boston, MA
KaBOOM! helps volunteers like Genevieve discover the power of community.
Play it forward to help more volunteers discover the power of teamwork.
"I could build a playground every day! When you build a KaBOOM! playground, you feel like part of the community, you meet interesting people and you all come together for a great cause.
At my last build, I had the opportunity to work with volunteers from a senior center. They were so excited to be there, and sometimes it’s just about feeling needed. Even though they were helping out the kids, KaBOOM! was really helping them feel needed again.
The positive impact was twofold and multigenerational, changing the lives of the volunteers and the children who would soon be playing on the playground they built."
– Gina Lazo, Coral Gables, FL
Gina has built 2 playgrounds with KaBOOM!, so far, and knows how important it is to get kids outside playing and away from computers and video games.
Play it forward with a donation today so we can keep engaging great community volunteers like Gina.
On May 20th, KaBOOM!, Meredith Nicholson Indiana Public School 96, Clarian Health and IU Health built a great new place to play in Indianapolis. In the first week the kids were able to use the playground there were zero discipline issues- which was unheard of!
The children are incredibly active. They love the playground and are playing non-stop. Some local high school students came to help from different schools. One of the students had gone through IPS 96 and he kept talking about how much he wished he had that playground when he was younger. The high schoolers feel great ownership over the project, and are excited to bring their younger siblings to the park. In addition, people that were helping the school for the first time at the build are looking to continue to volunteer at IPS 96.
Play it forward with a donation today so we can keep making a difference in communities like Indianapolis.
KaBOOM! National Partner JetBlue is looking for your help to decide where they should build one of their next KaBOOM! playgrounds! The Vote Where We Play Sweepstakes offers Facebook fans the ability to help pick the next city for a playground as well as a chance to win a weekend getaway to any JetBlue travel destination.
JetBlue is celebrating our partnership with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving play, that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Together, JetBlue and KaBOOM! have moved 16 tractor trailers full of mulch and brought together 2,830 volunteers to build 11 playgrounds, which serve 5,680 children every year.
In 2012 we look forward to building five more KaBOOM! playgrounds in JetBlue cities! We are jetting off to build playgrounds Long Beach, CA in February, San Juan, PR in March, Boston, MA in June and New York, NY in September; and we want YOU to vote on the lucky city that will receive our 15th playground!
UPDATE: The voting period has ended, and we would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to residents of the San Francisco Bay Area! You'll be getting a new playground in August 2012!
You may remember our Scary Playgrounds: Let’s Find ‘Em and Fix ‘Em contest last Halloween, when we asked for photos of playgrounds that were in desperate need of repair. Our grand prize winner, Dan Watson of Fredonia, Ariz. recently wrote to let us know what they’re doing with the $1,000 VISA Gift Card they received:
"We are still adding equipment to the park as we remodel our larger park.
The timing turned out really well, our local LDS ward was looking for a service project, so they helped paint the jungle gym, remove weeds from the basketball court, paint the court’s stripes and the basketball standards. We purchased curbing and engineered wood chips from local sources to make the playground safer. We replaced the backboards and rims. We moved a climber from our other park and are in the process of bringing over a slide and a 4-seat bouncer. We are rehabilitating the pieces now before we reinstall them. That will double the amount of equipment in the park.
We are also planning to add benches and tables and there is a movement to add a sand volleyball court. We are looking into the design and costs now. The only thing left that we really want to do is replace the jungle gym with a new small play structure.
We are still raising funds for our large park community build so it’s going have to wait for a while. But we are excited about breathing new life into this park and we again want to say thank you for your assistance.
We are proud to say it’s not the scariest park anymore."
Town of Fredonia
Thank you Fredonia for taking the initiative to fix up your playground! We hope the kids – and adults – enjoy it for years to come.
Twenty-five hundred citizens from around the world have descended on the snowy ski resort of Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. This year's theme is The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models. I like that it is about ‘shaping' new models and not necessarily ‘creating' them.
The diversity of people and confluence of ideologies is prevalent and core to the lively and smart discussions. Nowhere is the diversity more evident than in the outlook of the world's future. From my conversations thus far I have been struck by the conflict between those who are incredibly optimistic and carry a high level of confidence that new and better solutions are being developed through impactful innovators vs. those who are much more pessimistic about the future and the increasing number and power of the prolonged world crises we are experiencing.
Those bordering on pessimism believe that the new reality is here to stay. I am much more aligned to the optimists. And frankly, I have been struck by the optimism that is a common outlook of most of the social entrepreneurs. It seems rationale that a social entrepreneur exists because he/she is focused on creating solutions to our world's problems. We believe that our society's biggest challenges are solvable, and that, as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus said, "the distance between the impossible and possible is shrinking."
One idea that I am certain is a game changer for all of us is the idea of collective impact. No one business, no one government, no single sector can do it alone. Multiple stakeholders need to have shared values because they truly have shared responsibilities. By taking collective action we can have collective impact, and that will be our fastest and most powerful path to the necessary solutions.
It was an incredibly exciting first day of Davos. While today is the first official day of the WEF, yesterday was a pre-forum day spent with Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs. Between the programming of the brilliant and thoughtful Schwab Foundation's team and the talent of the Social Entrepreneurs in the room, it would have been worth the journey to Davos even if it were my only day here.
How can one not be optimistic about the new models we can shape and the resulting transformations we can have just based on the idealism, experience and perseverance in that room? I look forward to the continuing debate over the next couple of days. I was on a panel this morning for a session called The Creative Workplace. I will share more about that in an upcoming blog.
George Mohacsi is the President and CEO of Foresters, a life insurance provider committed to the well-being of families. Foresters and KaBOOM! began their partnership in 2006 when the organizations built four playgrounds across the U.S.
Since then, the partnership has grown tremendously - Foresters has committed more than $7 million to KaBOOM!, with nearly 100 playgrounds being built across the U.S. and Canada by 2013. Foresters has also become a KaBOOM! National Partner and a founding member of the KaBOOM! Leadership Circle—a group of organizations providing long-term guidance and support to KaBOOM!.
Mohacsi and KaBOOM! Founder and CEO Darell Hammond sat down to talk about Foresters commitment to KaBOOM! and why Foresters believes in creating opportunities for families to spend quality time together. Below is a snippet from the interview. The full version can be read here.
Darell: George, I’d like to start by letting you know that everyone at KaBOOM! is so pleased with our partnership, to say nothing of the many children and families our playgrounds will eventually serve. I’m curious to know what first motivated you and your team to support KaBOOM.
George: Thanks Darell—we are excited as well. Foresters is all about families. Everything we do – from our valuable member benefits, to our support for charitable partners like KaBOOM!, right down to the financial security provided by our insurance products – ties directly to our purpose of enhancing the well-being of families and communities.
An important element of well-being is family time. So, it’s important for us to create opportunities for families to spend time together, to play and to be active – which is exactly what we’re doing in our partnership with KaBOOM! Plus, we invite our members – Foresters customers – out to volunteer at the builds, allowing them to enjoy family time while making a difference.
Darell: I’ve been struck by the commitment of Foresters volunteers and their spirit and enthusiasm at playground builds—it’s absolutely contagious. As you know, KaBOOM! has worked hard to continually innovate our community-build process. I enjoyed mixing cement with you at our build in Toronto and would love to hear about your impressions on building a playground with us.
George: I have loved attending builds! The build site just comes alive with everyone shoveling mulch, building benches and putting together the playground. And with our fun, family activities, it’s great that kids can get involved too. This allows families to spend the day together.
I must also say that I am continuously amazed by how KaBOOM! is able to coordinate bringing hundreds of volunteers together to work in unison to build an amazing place to play in less than eight hours. It truly provides such as sense of accomplishment for me, as well for our volunteers.
The article “Societal Values and Policies May Curtail Preschool Children’s Physical Activity in Child Care Centers,” and associated study published yesterday by the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows what we at KaBOOM! have seen happening increasingly over the years: the risk of lawsuits and increased academic competitiveness is harming our children.
In our aggressively litigious culture, we have become so obsessed with controlling risk that children are missing out on opportunities to grow and learn. There is a difference between an injury and an accident. An injury happens when equipment is in disrepair. An accident is just a natural part of growing up. Instead of accepting that a few bumps, bruises and even stitches are an inevitable part of childhood – and can actually be a healthy learning experience – we have somehow come to believe that accidents of any kind should be avoided at all costs.
Play is also under attack in our nation's schools. Shrinking recess and increased homework leave little time for play. And increasingly, cities are building new schools without playgrounds. Despite countless studies proving that play is integral to children's learning and health, most kids aren't getting enough space and time to play during the school day.
The intentions are good. We all want our kids to be safe and to have all of the opportunities available to them. Unfortunately, common sense is victim to these pressures. The key now is to take the results of this and other studies and pivot the conversation away from blame and toward a solution.
We need to create play spaces for our kids that encourage risk-taking and autonomy, allow them to be in control, and give them the time and space they need to exercise their bodies and master certain skills. That is one reason why KaBOOM! has embraced the concept of the Imagination Playground™ which uses loose parts and encourages creativity.
But even the most engaging play spaces won’t help our kids if we don’t shift our societal values to recognize the importance of play in our children’s physical, emotional and cognitive health and development. Once that happens we will automatically start to allocate appropriate financial resources for play spaces and give our kids the time they need to be kids.
When I was a growing up I had plenty of opportunities to play, (and yes, I had plenty of accidents, some of which required stitches) as did most of my peers. It took a generation for play to take a back seat and it will likely take a generation or more to correct itself. We must continue to study the issue, but more importantly, be willing to act when the facts can no longer be denied.
As we look back on the KaBOOM! 15th birthday year, it is hard not to feel pride in all that we – the broader KaBOOM! community – have accomplished toward realizing our vision of a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.
Together we have built 2,072 playgrounds empowering communities across North America to come together for the greater good. We have taken all of our knowledge and made it available – for free – so people can self-organize and build playgrounds at a much faster pace than we can alone, while also building local skills, capacity and social capitol.
We have mapped 89,145 playgrounds in our effort to create a nationwide Map of Play, which will in turn illuminate Play Deserts, allowing us to use our resources even more strategically to serve those communities most in need. To that end, we created a mobile app, Playgrounds!, to make it easier for you to add to our Map of Play and find great places to play in your neighborhood.
We recognized 151 Playful City USA honorees across the country for their efforts to make their cities more playful. And, with your support, my book, KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, was #4 on the NY Times Bestseller list, enrolling more communities, mayors, teachers and parents in the movement to save play.
With so much to celebrate, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement. But we must not forget that KaBOOM! was founded out of a tragedy – the lost lives of Iyesha and Clendon, who suffocated to death while playing in an abandoned car because they didn’t have a safe place to play. That story, as reported in the Washington Post, inspired me to bring people together and do something: build a playground.
This year, we turned another tragedy into hope in Phil Campbell, Ala., whose town was nearly destroyed by the largest tornado in Alabama history. Twenty-six people were killed including two students and a teacher from Phil Campbell Elementary School. Along with homes and businesses, their only playground was shredded by winds reaching over 210 MPH. Residents from Phil Campbell are still struggling to put their lives back together, but on December 17th they got a new playground, thanks to support from Disney, and two Imagination Playground in a Box™ sets, thanks to the generosity of donors from across the country.
Our mission to help communities build playgrounds is also driven by the fact that outdoor play is critical to the health and well-being of our children, yet today’s kids have fewer opportunities and less time to play than any previous generation.
As we look ahead to the next 15 years, we must recommit to and act on behalf of Iesha and Clendon and all of the children in our lives to ensure that they have a great place to play and that play is prioritized at home and in school. Whether that means organizing a playground build in your neighborhood, joining our online community on Facebook or donating to our broader efforts, make a resolution to help advance the cause of play.
Oh, and don’t forget to have some fun along the way!
Founder and CEO, KaBOOM!