$30,000 and $15,000 Grants to Support Playful Policies


While communities throughout the country struggle with budgetary constraints, providing the resources needed to ensure that children stay active and healthy too often gets placed on the back-burner. Yet, despite these constraints, there are several cost-effective policy measures that community leaders can pursue to increase access to the play opportunities that children need to thrive.

To that end, KaBOOM! strongly supports the creation of joint use agreements that make play more accessible to kids, and is working to assist communities across the country to open up school playgrounds, during non-school hours, through the availability of $30,000 and $15,000 Let’s Play Joint Use Grants.

A joint use agreement (JUA) is a formal agreement between two separate entities–often a school and a city or county–setting forth the terms and conditions for shared use of public property or facilities. While most agreements are formed between government entities, nonprofit groups and private property owners can also take part in joint use agreements. Each agreements differs in size and scope, but they all serve to solidify collaborative partnerships that pool resources and divide responsibility amongst all of the parties involved.

A joint use agreement costs little to implement and can have an enormous impact on the health of the entire community. By opening up parks, playgrounds, and other recreational facilities to the public during times in which they would normally be closed, both children and adults gain access to conveniently located spaces where they can play, exercise, and interact. Often, these locations can help to serve as a public commons for the community to engage, share ideas, and develop the bonds necessary for social cohesion.

KaBOOM! believes that, through joint use agreements, communities can achieve large scale impact. That’s why we are working to educate communities on the benefits of joint use and to overcome any related challenges. For example, while costs are minimal, some entities are reluctant to form joint use agreements because of concerns over liability. However, many states throughout the country have worked to pass laws that make joint use easier by either limiting or prohibiting liability. To find out what the liability laws concerning joint use are in your state, visit Change Lab Solutions and click on their interactive map.

To learn more about Let’s Play Joint Use Grants, apply, and access a free comprehensive tool-kit, including a sample agreement and resolution, that will assist you in forming a joint use agreement in your community, visit

Photo Caption: Photo by Matt Hutter. See our original Tumblr post about this photo.


Kissimmee gives back


The Playful City USA community of Kissimmee Florida is known for sunshine and play. In order to improve the quality, safety, and use of play spaces in Kissimmee, the Parks & Recreation Department created the Volunteer in Parks program (aka VIP). The VIP program allows residents of Kissimmee to give back to the city through a variety of volunteering opportunities that are all focused on keeping the parks of Kissimmee clean and beautiful.

How does this program work? The Parks & Recreation Department of Kissimmee allows volunteers to sign up for projects that are posted online monthly. Eventually, the city hopes to incorporate a points system that rewards the residents devoting the most time to play space improvement. By involving residents and community groups (such as the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts), roughly 10 different community parks will receive the care they deserve.

Why does this program matter? The Kissimmee volunteering program creates greater ownership of the local parks, a close-knit community, and best of all, beautifully maintained parks. Through creating greater ownership of the community’s parks, residents can make tangible improvements and changes on their city. In order for the children of Kissimmee to maintain a healthy lifestyle and get the recommended levels of physical activity, they need to have dependable places to play.  Improving play spaces brings the children of Kissimmee safe and reliable places to play for years to come.

What else does Kissimmee offer? In addition to the VIP program, Kissimmee created an Adopt-A-Trail program that allows individuals or groups to claim a part of the Shingle Creek trail to beautify and maintain. Adopters will have the chance to paint, landscape, clean-up and make the trail space stronger and more usable for the community.

Congrats to Kissimmee for starting these great programs to protect play!

If you’re interested in starting a community volunteer program to improve your parks, check out our DIY playground improvement guides! For KaBOOM! volunteering opportunities, instructions on how to earn credit for community service or to get Girl Scout Participant Patches, visit our Volunteering Resources page.  The Let’s Play Maintenance Grants allow communities to apply for a $750 grant to help clean, beautify, and maintain their playgrounds. Apply for a Let's Play Maintenance Grant here!


Let's Play Completion Grants


Residents of the Playful City USA community Allentown, Pennsylvania are the proud new owners of the newly re-built Franklin Park. A once unsafe and out-dated play space, Franklin Park was in desperate need of a makeover. Partnering with the Trexler Trust, St Stephen’s Lutheran Church, and the Allentown Department of Parks & Rec, residents of Allentown came together to make a playground that will serve 15,000 children annually. After 8 months of planning and hard work, over fifty volunteers came together to set up the new playground in just over two hours!

To help add the essential finishing touches to the new play space, Allentown applied for, and received the Let’s Play Completion Grant. The grant awarded Allentown with a $500 American Express Gift Card to be applied towards the newly completed playground. The Playful City USA team would like to congratulate Allentown on their new playground and their grant!

If your community recently completed a playground using the KaBOOM! Community Build Model, you might be eligible for a Let’s Play Completion Grant! If you're interested, we encourage you to apply for a Let’s Play Completion Grant. The $500 American Express Gift Card towards funding any element of the completed playground.

Read more about Allentown’s play traditions here.


Waves of play


In the city featuring nature’s most famous waterpark, Niagara Falls, New York has been making major waves. Niagara Falls has been a recognized Playful City USA community since 2009. A diverse and growing community, play is at the center of the city’s revitalization plan. Niagara Falls embraces play in three effective ways.

  1. Community Education. To open access to more play spaces, Niagara Falls school district works with the City of Niagara Falls to ensure students have access to play and then learn about play in the classroom. By partnering together, the children of Niagara Falls have more time to play. With joint use agreements that open access to gyms, education programs surrounding play and nutrition, and providing recreational venues, the school and city are making major progress in creating opportunities for kids to play.
  2. Community Engagement. Niagara Falls took an active approach in building play. After becoming a Playful City USA community, Niagara Falls applied and received a $20,000 Let’s Play City Construction Grant. By starting a project on the Our Dream Playground website, generating community support and applying for the exclusive Playful City USA grant opportunities, the city was able to inspire a number of residents behind the vision of an amazing new play space for the children of the community. By using the KaBOOM! Community build model, Niagara Falls built the new Griffon Park playground and renovate other areas in the city. Over 220 community volunteers pitched in on the day of the playground build! The Fire Department, a local DJ, and the Buffalo Sabres mascot all got in on the building fun as well! From the local restaurants donating food to the raffle provided from local businesses, the entire community of Niagara Falls rallied for play.

    If you are interested in improving your city’s play spaces, apply for a Let’s Play Maintenance Grant!

  3. Community Celebration. What would the point of working so hard without taking time to enjoy the positive impacts of pushing for play? Each year, Niagara Falls hosts an annual Play Day. This year’s play day occurred in September, during the construction of a brand new playground. The Play Day featured organized games and a fishing derby while the adults worked on the playground. In order to give all children in Niagara Falls an opportunity to play, the city incorporated recreational activities like hockey, tennis, and organized sports. The city also planned affordable activities that could be continued after the play day such as bike riding, hopscotch, jumping rope and skating. The play day excited children and encouraged not just a day of healthy play, but a life of healthy play.

Niagara Falls has proved that action in one area can inspire and lead communities to take action in the future. Members of the same planning committee for the Griffon Park playground are now working to plan the next improvement projects for the city. The city is working to open a beautiful waterfront park that features the downtown area. With a community devoted to play, more children than ever before will have access to opportunities for play.


100 years of play


100 years ago, Woodrow Wilson became President of the United States, milk sold for $0.32 per gallon, the Titanic made its fateful voyage, and the Model-T gleamed fresh off the assembly lines. Americans listened to jazz music, Oreos were invented, the Panama Canal was completed and Allentown, Pennsylvania hosted their first “Romper Day.”

Founded by General Harry C. Trexler, Romper Day takes place at the end of August as a joyful conclusion to Allentown’s Summer Play Program. This year, over 1,000 residents celebrated a “Hip-Hop Connection” themed day of fun and tradition. While today’s residents of Allentown might not be jamming to the jazzy tunes of the American Quartet like they were 100 years ago, Romper Day still remains a fond tradition of the city. Allentown calls their summer recreational programming the Summer Playground Program. Children of the community have over 22 locations where they can play basketball, flag football, tennis, bowling, kickball, soccer, softball, swimming, wiffle-ball, and create arts and crafts, most locations with access to playgrounds! Romper Day celebrates a summer full of play, Allentown’s recognition as a Playful City USA, members of the community coming together and culminates with a group of children dancing around and decorating a May Pole. 2013 will be the 100-year anniversary for this day full of racing, family, dancing and more.

Allentown has been recognized as a Playful City USA for four consecutive years for their continued dedication to play.

The Harry Trexler Trust, partnering with St. Stephen’s/Christ Lutheran Church, recently funded the restoration and transformation of Franklin Park. Once run-down and unsafe, the playground now allows children of all ages to play and was built entirely by members of the Allentown community! Allentown  recently recieved the Let’s Play! Completion Grant to add the finishing touches to their playspace.

Keeping up with the tradition of innovating ways for the community to play, KaBOOM! granted Allentown with an Imagination Playground in a Box two years ago. All staff members that run the Summer Playground Program are trained Play Associates, dedicated to spreading a creative way of play to kids around the community.  Since then, the innovative playtool traveled through 9 schools and served over 1,500 kids annually! Not only does Imagination Playground include different crowds of students, Allentown’s Destination Playground provides special scheduled “Inclusion Playtime,” to make sure kids of all abilities have the opportunity to express themselves. The Destination Playground provides an ideal venue for increasing therapeutic recreations and socialization of all the children of the community.

After a century of encouraging play, we think Allentown does a great job of keeping strong traditions going and inspiring their citizens to start new ones. 


25 Playful City USA communities each awarded $20,000 grant


Congratulations to the $20,000 Let’s Play Construction Grant recipients! Help these communities make their playground dreams come true by lending a helping hand in the planning process or by donating to make a difference.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group and KaBOOM! awarded each of these cities a $20,000 Let’s Play City Construction Grant today! These communities received the grant because they were selected as 2012 Playful City USA honorees and will use the grants to build new playgrounds with community involvement.

The grants are part of Let’s Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple Group to get kids and families active nationwide. In 2011, as part of Let’s Play, Dr Pepper Snapple Group made a $15 million, three-year commitment to KaBOOM!, the national non-profit saving play by ensuring there is a great place to play within walking distance of every child. Together through Let’s Play, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and KaBOOM! will build or fix up 2,000 playgrounds by the end of 2013, benefiting an estimated five million children across North America.

The Playful City USA application process and associated grants will reopen this fall. Sign up, at right, to receive notification from us. Learn about other KaBOOM! grant opportunities.


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