June 10, 2008

KaBOOM! builds 100th playground in the Gulf

KaBOOM! builds 100th playground in the Gulf
"Operation Playground" initiative provides a great place to play for 49,605 children from Houston to Mobile

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast, KaBOOM!, the national non-profit that empowers communities to build playgrounds, made a commitment to build 100 playgrounds in the areas hardest hit by the storms. On June 14th, in Bay St. Louis Miss., KaBOOM! will reach this goal.

"When KaBOOM! began Operation Playground just three months after Hurricane Katrina struck, those outside the area were incredulous, believing that playgrounds were the last thing people needed in the midst of the devastation," said Darell Hammond, CEO and Co-founder, KaBOOM! "But we knew that the Gulf Coast's youngest residents needed safe places to escape the stress of the rebuilding effort and reclaim their childhood."

On Dec. 17, 2005, more than 600 residents and other volunteers came together at Carol Vegas Park in Bay St. Louis, Miss., to build a new playground, the first new permanent structure constructed in the town since Hurricane Katrina. Some wanted to give their kids a safe place to go while they re-built their homes; some remembered the aftermath of Hurricane Camille in 1969 and said they wanted to make sure local children had a place to heal emotionally; and others came out to take action and to be a part of the rebuilding process. On that day, and 98 other days just like it, volunteers transformed an empty lot into a great place to play in just one day.

Following the first build, KaBOOM! and its partners worked with community organizations to build playgrounds in cities from Houston to Mobile. With the generous support of funders such as Jim and Donna Barksdale, The Home Depot, Playworld Systems Inc., Fannie Mae, NBA Cares, the DJR Foundation, AmeriCares, ESPN and ING DIRECT, KaBOOM! has channeled $8.2 million into the area and mobilized more than 21,399 volunteers. Thirty-nine playgrounds were built in New Orleans alone, with 37 across the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.

On June 14th, KaBOOM! is returning to Bay St. Louis and will lead our 100th Operation Playground project at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park. Like all KaBOOM! projects, the process started off with a Design Day where neighborhood children gathered to draw their dream playground. For this build, their pictures included everything from a slide, to a basketball court to a Ferris wheel.

"While their parents took their ideas into consideration, the Ferris wheel didn't make the cut," said Hammond. The new playground at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park will serve 2,000 children from ages 2-12 and is in an area where 97% of the children qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

"This playground will give these neighborhood kids a great place to play everyday. We also need to use victories like our 100th build to thank our committed sponsors and to draw national attention to the ongoing needs of those living in the Gulf," said Hammond. "KaBOOM! and our sponsors will continue to build in the area for as long as there's a need. We've already scheduled our 101st and 102nd playground builds on June 28th, and we have projects scheduled through December."

The 100th and 101st playgrounds are two of seventeen playgrounds made possible by a partnership between KaBOOM! and the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Fannie Mae, and the Foundation for the Mid South.

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 1,400 new playgrounds, skateparks, sports fields and ice rinks across North America. KaBOOM! also offers a variety of resources, including an online community, regional and national trainings, grants, publications and the KaBOOM! National Campaign for Play, which includes Playful City USA and the Playmaker Network – 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.

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