More than 500 volunteers converged on Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park in Bay St. Louis on June 14 to help KaBOOM! and our partners complete the 100th Operation Playground project in the Gulf Coast. In December 2005, KaBOOM! committed to build 100 playgrounds in the region after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, starting with the first in Bay St. Louis. It was only fitting that the 100th playground was built in the town where it all began.
The 100th build was a true community celebration. Not even a midday shower could dampen the enthusiasm of the volunteers from the local community, Fannie Mae, AmeriCorps*NCCC, Gulf Coast Recovery Corps, Keesler Air Force base, and others, many of whom had participated in several previous Operation Playground projects. In just under six hours, the volunteers completed two playground structures, refurbished two basketball courts, and built an extensive new ‘front porch' entrance to the park. They also painted several murals commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, the community and Operation Playground. As a finishing touch, local children created a ‘Heroes Walk' around the park honoring the men and women of the Civil Rights movement.
The project was made possible by a partnership between KaBOOM!, the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Fannie Mae, Foundation for the Mid South, the City of Bay St. Louis, Hancock Housing Resource Center and Powerhouse of Deliverance Church. At 2:30, representatives from each of the organizations, along with the volunteers and past Operation Playground Community Partners, gathered to cut a very special ribbon made up of 100 painted panels representing each of the 100 Operation Playground projects.
Because of Operation Playground, more than 22,000 volunteers have donated their time to build playgrounds for nearly 50,000 children from Houston to Mobile. In all, through Operation Playground, $8.2 million has been invested to build great new places to play in the Gulf Coast by Jim and Donna Barksdale, The Home Depot, Playworld Systems, Fannie Mae, Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, NBA Cares, DJR Foundation, AmeriCares, ESPN, ING Direct and other outstanding partners.
KaBOOM! will continue to build in the region and already has several projects scheduled through December. The 101st and 102nd Operation Playground projects will take place in New Orleans and Biloxi on Saturday, June 28.