"The old adage 'the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree' had, for the most part, held a negative connotation for me until the KaBOOM! playground build in Pascagoula in 2008. We didn’t have as many volunteers as the other playground builds I worked on, but there was something different about this project - the kids were pitching in just throwing themselves into any job they could find.
Three years before this community was left in total devastation, and now houses that were once uninhabitable were homes again. Many of the people I know, where I used to live in Pascagoula, were too busy mucking out their houses in the days that followed Katrina to worry about when help would arrive. Like community after community along the Gulf Coast they just did what had to be done. Eventually they parked their FEMA trailers next to what was left of their homes, dug in and got busy with rebuilding.
What I witnessed in those children the day of the playground build struck me because it mirrored the actions of their parents and community after the storm. At first I just thought the kids would just get in the way, but they were relentless in their determination to help and did not take long to find what they were good at and run with it. It was apparent that it was not just fun to them - this was really hard work but they were determined to complete the project on time. And like their parents and community after Katrina, they didn’t just sit there and wait for the cavalry to show up and do it for them."
– JJ Smith, Pascagoula, MS
For most towns a new playground is just that – a great new place to play. But for the people in the Gulf Coast it offered a chance to rebuild their communities.
Play it forward so we can keep helping communities recover.
A couple months back we announced that Chobani Champions was supporting our SAVE PLAY campaign by granting three Imagination Playground™ in a Box™ sets to local community organizations. KaBOOM! is happy to report that the tour is over and three communities in Hartford, Conn.; Miami, Fla.; and Boston, Mass. now have innovative mobile playgrounds!
Here's a video from the gifting ceremony at the Waltham Boys & Girls Club:
"Hurricane Katrina was the most devastating storm to ever hit the United States. The small towns of Waveland and Bay St Louis, Mississippi looked like we had been bombed – it looked like a war zone. My godchild, Ginny Vegas Reynolds, now living in Connecticut, remembered growing up in Bay St. Louis and after Hurricane Camille she and her friends had no place to play. Ginny contacted childhood friends Cheryl Carlson Goodnow in Massachusetts and Joellyn Frisbie Gilmore, my daughter in Diamondhead, a community just north of Bay St. Louis, to coordinate a way to get a playground.
In a matter of days Ginny was back in touch. She had made a connection with Darell Hammond, CEO of KaBOOM! The next thing we knew Darell was here to evaluate the situation. Within days a site was selected, KaBOOM! was getting corporate sponsors. Local children became involved with their playground wish lists and a design was developed.
The Morkin’s home, which prior to the hurricane had been a bed and breakfast was across the street from the playground site. They immediately opened their home to the staff of KaBOOM! as did the Gilmore’s. They were able to sign up more than 600 volunteers to help build the playground. By mid-December the big trucks rolled in with all the equipment, the design staked off and the build began.
It started with breakfast at 7:30 am, then the build was nonstop except for staggered volunteer lunch breaks. It was cold but no one complained. At 3pm the playground was complete. We all stood in wonder!! It was unbelievable! Oh! What a day!
Now, 6 years later, it is still beautiful. I pass the playground almost every day. There are always children at play or an adult just sitting on a bench reading a book or just relaxing under an old oak tree. KaBOOM! has been such a blessing to so many children with the additional playgrounds that followed. We love KaBOOM!."
– Nell Frisbee, Bay St. Louis, MS
After Hurricane Katrina KaBOOM! built more than 100 playgrounds on the Gulf Coast. Our work there continues with 3 builds in New Orleans in just the past 3 months.
Play it forward with a donation today because in the midst of a disaster kids need play more than ever.
"I’ve been fortunate enough to build three KaBOOM! playgrounds with the Junior League of Pittsburgh. Each of the three days brought its own challenges and successes, but as any KaBOOM! build volunteer will tell you, it’s all worth it to see that amazing new playground up at the end of the day. And while three new playgrounds is great, at Easter dinner in 2007 my family and I realized that we could do more.
Using my knowledge from the past KaBOOM! builds along with the tools and resources on kaboom.org, my mother, my aunt and myself began planning for a new place to play in our neighborhood. When the project felt like an uphill battle, and it often did, we reminded each other that a playground is essential to the health of our neighborhood; and that our efforts would make an impact on generations of children. We all need play, regardless of our age or socioeconomic status. Play is essential for happiness and growth.
The best part of Build Day was the volunteers. Their enthusiasm, excitement and willingness to work was contagious and made for a fun, festive environment. Giving freely of their time and talents for a cause bigger than themselves shaped a sense of pride in our community and in each other.
The new playground and the community’s involvement in Build Day sparked an interest in the community to do more. We’re currently planning a Play Day, as well as continuing the fundraising efforts for life-long-sports facilities."
– Gretchen Smathers, Pittsburgh, PA
Gretchen wouldn’t stop after 1, 2, or even 3 new playgrounds. Since completing the community-built playground project in 2008 she’s gone on to build another playground with KaBOOM! and isn’t planning on stopping anytime soon.
Play it forward with a donation today to help support play advocates like Gretchen, and the rest of her family.
"Late afternoon one day, when I was just six years old, I heard a series of loud cracking noises. Suddenly, my grandmother pushed me and my sister down and threw her body on top of us. When we woke the next day, I learned that a drive by shooting happened the night before.
It was in that moment that I became aware of the reality of poverty and violence in my neighborhood. Although my father was addicted to drugs and never around and my mother struggled to raise my sister and I on clerk’s wages, I was blessed with teachers, family and community members who helped me stay focused on my dreams and efforts to go to college. It wasn't until I visited South Africa in 2001 and saw shanty towns, that I understood where poverty, privilege and power intersect and realized that no one should have to grow up the way I did, or for that matter, the way the South African kids were either.
As I grew older, I came to learn that 31 people in my family were in prison, and just 1 of us was in college - me. I went on to graduate school and decided to return to my community, Inglewood, to teach critical literacy to black male youth at Morningside High School and help them experience what I felt when I went to South Africa. At Morningside, I founded the Black Male Youth Academy where I work with students and community members to use research in order to identify social issues in our community and then find solutions.
Two years ago, they decided to tackle food justice and began an initiative called "100 Seeds of Change" where they are creating 100 urban gardens – community, school and home gardens. Our program got a big lift this March at a KaBOOM! playground build where my BMYA students led the construction of a wonderful new community garden, next to the brand new playground in Inglewood.
That day, we helped move the 20 tons of soil into over 50 garden beds that were then filled with vegetables, fruits, flowers, and plants. There was a stage and 9 benches to transform a once unsavory concrete desert into an outdoor classroom that stood in front of a custom mural. Two picnic tables turned a barren wading pool into a pleasant lunching spot. A storage box was placed near the garden beds for onsite access to tools and supplies and future plans include the building of an 'outdoor kitchen' that will allow for the community to grow, harvest, prepare, and eat in the same space as where they play and gather.
Both myself, and my students left feeling empowered at the end of the day, and I know we’ll be able to do even more now."
– Dart Scorza, Inglewood, CA
Dart was already a leader in his community, and with the help of KaBOOM! he was able to empower even more people.
Play it forward today to help us work with more leaders like Dart.
NBC News today unveiled the first in a series designed to help parents get back to the basics. In this story about the importance of creative play, they talk to KaBOOM! Founder and CEO, Darell Hammond, about the power of the playground.
“Our philosophy here at The Goddard School is all about play. We believe that children learn best through spontaneous exploration of their environment. When it came time for an addition to our school we found ourselves questioning the appropriate play ground for this new space, since we already had a traditional playground in our original building.
We know that kids are attracted to colorful play structures and slides, but the stationary playground structures offer little room for imagination and creativity. We really felt that it was important to find something that would encourage the kids to run freely and to create their own games and fun.
We have been thrilled with Imagination Playground™. This amazing model contains movable parts so that children create and build their own unique playground every day, tear it down and start again the next day. Thus, the play area never looks the same from day to day.
One year later we have had the opportunity to observe what the children have created over time. We have witnessed everything from American Idol stages, to Fire Trucks, to Ice Cream stands being constructed. We also moved our Imagination Playground™ outside this past summer where the kids added water and their own loose found parts to enhance their creative play. We couldn't be more thrilled with its fabulous success here at The Goddard School located in Concord Twp, Ohio.”
– Kristina Turk, Concord Twp, OH
Kristina and the staff at the Goddard School have discovered the limitless bounds of a child’s imagination through Imagination Playground™.
Play it forward today so we can help bring Imagination Playground™ to kids across the country.
“Playgrounds are places where children can be children. Where imaginations run wild and first friendships are formed. It is where a child may resolve his first conflict or put his negotiating skills to the test in his first debate.
Playgrounds are places where leaders are formed, where laughter rules the castle and under-dogs learn to fly using swings. Confidence is built by tackling the monkey bars or climbing to the top of the rock wall. Play lays the foundation to becoming a confident, self reliant, productive, and happy adult.”
– Shannon Schafer, Safety Harbor, FL
Play it forward with a donation today if you believe in the importance of play.
“I will be using much of the KaBOOM! webinar information as I revisit my playground committees. As you are well aware, school systems are struggling with financing which has direct consequences on staffing. Some of my key playground committee members at Edison Park Elementary are in job placement limbo, we need to wait to see where the school district places them, as much as we want them back.
Thanks to the webinar and website information, I can start structuring the roles/responsibilities of various committees and reorganize as necessary in the beginning of the school year. We had many teachers and parents volunteer at our last end of the year faculty gathering and plan to start up again immediately at our first PTA/PTSA meeting and opening of schools faculty meetings.
I understand the concept of vague information in times of great uncertainty. I appreciate the reinforcing encouragement you have been able to share. Hopefully it won't take 8 months to get our financing together, but if so, we will keep our playground mission alive and kicking for the long haul.”
– Jackie House, Miami, FL
Play it forward with a donation to help Jackie and other hopeful playground builder dream’s alive.
“I have been fighting against a rising tide of needs in the Spring Valley neighborhood of San Diego for over two decades, always just barely keeping my head above water. For so many years Spring Valley has been defined by what it lacks, not by what it has.
We have an incredibly rich culture with people from every walk of life and background, but what everyone outside saw was an unsafe and transient community. Every year 25% of our school population moved – Spring Valley was an epicenter of foreclosures in 2008 and 2009. As a former juvenile probation officer I know you needed to invest in people early, and that just wasn’t happening.
Then, in February of this year, I was thrilled to help bring about the physical manifestation of the change my community needed. KaBOOM! built a bright, colorful, gorgeous new playground at the Spring Valley Community Center with a walking trail and a community garden.
Thanks to the efforts of a local city council member (who was inspired by the playground project) large green soccer fields now extend behind the playground. Those community gardens, built back in February, are now home to a regional garden education center, where I discovered the green thumb I never knew I had. These gardens have not only grown plants, they’ve grown community.”
– Barbara Warner, Spring Valley, CA
Barbara knows that where you live says a lot about who you are, and her community is now a place where people want to invest and spend time in.
Play it forward to help grow other communities across the country.