"I used to play at Park of the Canals when I was a kid in Mesa, Arizona and always had fond memories of it. But shortly before I moved into the neighborhood with my own family, the playground was removed for safety reasons. Ironically, that resulted in a dramatic decline in park use and it developed a sore reputation for criminal activity.
Mesa was in a budget crisis and had no funds to allocate to park improvements, so it became obvious to me that the only alternative was to mount a community effort to replace the playground and take back our park.
Through the months of planning and coordinating with my community to raise funds and volunteers, my three little girls were my biggest motivation and inspiration. They can spend all day long at a park playing and having fun - but it's not just that, they are exploring, pretending, socializing, learning new things about themselves when they have the space and quality equipment to engage in unstructured play.
For me, more than anything, a good park means more quality time together for families and friends. We are all losing too much of our lives fixated on a TV, computer or cell phone screen - unengaged with our love ones and the world around us."
– Bert Millett, Mesa, AZ
Bert wanted more for his community, and his family, so he stood up and led an amazing community build with knowledge and resources from KaBOOM!
Play it forward with a donation today so dads like Bert can keep building great new places to play.
"I am an advocate for play because of the social, emotional and physical development benefits it provides for children. No other activity can accomplish these developmental elements at one time like play. A trip to a Polish orphanage changed my life. I saw first-hand what happens to kids who do not have the same opportunities for play as their counterparts in America. As a result of this first trip, I’ve built two playgrounds in Poland and two Polish children from the orphanage are now my son and daughter.
After my first trip to the orphanage I knew I had to act, and I learned more about KaBOOM! I attended their annual playground-building training and received a grant that allowed me to complete my tool kit which would eventually travel with me to Poland and help construct those playgrounds. Thanks to the resources and knowledge from KaBOOM!, endless translations, SKYPE, extensive fundraising and hours upon hours of hard work we were able to complete one playground at a rural Polish orphanage (Dom Dziecka) and another at an elementary school in the city of Poznan."
– Mark White, Lees Summit, MO
Mark took our online tools and resources and put them to work building 2 great new places to play for kids who really needed it.
Play it forward with a donation today so we can keep improving our online tools and resources and support community builders like Mark across the country, and the world.
On June 11th, 2011, KaBOOM!, St. Joseph Immigrant Women's Centre and Foresters built a great new place to play in Hamilton, Ontario. The Women's Centre residents have started a local community group, working together to continually discuss situations happening on the property and how they'd like to progress things for the positive. Some of the community members involved in the planning process and many community members at the build are also starting a neighborhood association. They will be meeting weekly to discuss ways to continually improve on what is already at the center.
Play it forward with a donation today, because it may start with a playground, but it doesn't end there.
On March 11th, 2011, KaBOOM!, the Cedar Crest Community Center and Dr Pepper Snapple Group built a great new place to play in Dallas. The group of seniors that helped prep and serve food were ecstatic to help out with a project. When you're a senior, you don't get called to help that much and they were overjoyed to be such an important part of Build Day.
Play it forward with a donation today so we can keep engaging volunteers of all ages across the country.
"Our park was dead, high grass, two swings and basically it was going to be closed. Then, Mike Winnegate started a team with 12 players and KaBOOM! came in and built a playground. This was something the park had never had. Chris Paul and the Hornets saw a community working with KaBOOM!, Marriott, City of New Orleans, Friends of NORD, and NORD and provided helpers and repaired our basketball court.
Now, on any given day children from all over the community are playing at the park. The seniors are using the benches and tables provided by KaBOOM! to sit, read, play table games and families are having picnics. The entire community is once again enjoying the outdoors. The sweet sounds of children laughing and playing, laughter from the adults and stories being told by the elders fills the air of our park and our community. Watching them takes turns on the slides and on the basketball court is amazing because they are playing together without an adult instructing them on how to play fair.
After a hard day on the job, I will stop at the park just to sit a watch. The joy my sprit feels just watching the kids’ having a great time brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my heart of hearts. I never in my life would have guessed that something so simple in this world of technology could bring so much joy to so many.
Words could never express how much KaBOOM! has given to inspire a community."
– Madaline Trepagnier, New Orleans, LA
Play it forward with a donation today so we can keep building up community’s like Madaline’s.
"I used to live across the street from a large lot of nothing, but since August 31, I sit on my porch and admire our new KaBOOM! playground. With a chalkboard, six benches and exercise stations, all in addition to the playground equipment, I think it’s the nicest, happiest playground I’ve ever seen.
My family and I had been thinking about leaving our Detroit-area neighborhood, but this new playground has really improved the community and we are committed to keeping it that way.
Every Sunday evening I empty the trash cans and patrol the playground for any potential vandalism. My husband tightens any loose bolts on the equipment and makes sure everything is safe and secure. I notice more animals coming out of the nearby woods, and the playground even inspired me to take my first stroll through those same woods on a nearby nature path.
I’ve seen more neighbors let their kids come out and play, and I’m already planning some fun weekend activities for kids at the park. On Build Day in August I baked a huge KaBOOM! cake to celebrate, but this playground is something I celebrate every day."
– Nikki Eason, Detroit, Mich.
Nikki’s tears of joy on Build Day were not just for all the local kids who would now have a place to play, but for the community that gathered to help create it.
Play it forward to bring play to more communities across the country.
Three weeks ago the town of Ottawa, Kansas built their first playground accessible to children with physical challenges. They’d never come together to do anything quite like this, and weren’t sure exactly where to start. But, the KaBOOM! online planner showed them how, step by step. Tara says the new playground is “a double excitement” for her family because her epileptic daughter can play there, and her wheelchair-bound mother can join the fun, too.
Kelley is excited too– her daughter has spina bifida, which renders most playground equipment out of reach. The new swings with protective bars are “almost like a rocket seat---she’s always wanted to go faster, and now she can safely.” Sonny, who’s in third grade, spent his summer collecting change at local gas stations to raise money for the new playground. He ended up surpassing his goal and collected $337 all in honor of his five-year-old brother who had died a few months before.
“Play it forward” with a donation today to help more communities follow Ottawa’s lead in 2012.
Does your playground need a spruce-up? Follow the lead of these three inspiring communities, who have used Let's Play Spruce Grants to clean, paint, and green their playspaces:
Julian, Calif.: On June 17, 2011, 20 seventh and eighth graders volunteered during their summer vacation to help re-paint black top games at the elementary school’s "Peaceful Playground." The idea for the project originated during the previous school year when these middle-school students volunteered one lunch hour per week to mentor elementary-school students during recess, helping them to peacefully resolve conflicts while developing positive relationships with the younger students.This school year, the 7th graders will be offering a similar mentorship experience on the newly spruced-up playground.
Houston, Tex.: On August 20, 2011, a diverse, 14-person Spruce Team gathered for four hours to plant new heat-loving plants, rake out the engineered wood fiber, and pick up trash and debris around the playground. In spite of the oppressive heat, the atmosphere was one of good cheer and thoughtful collaboration between the school community and local businesses. Thanks to the hard work of these volunteers, over 450 children came back to find their school playground looking as good as it did when it was first built four years ago.
Providence, R.I.: After Hurricane Irene, a neighborhood team organized a 24-hour "heal-a-thon" for Brown Street Park. They used social media (Twitter and Facebook) and their website to get the word out. Over 45 volunteers respond to this plea throughout the 24-36 hour period. They piled up debris, moved dead tree limbs out of the way, cleaned up the plant beds, weeded, picked up trash, cleaned graffiti, and installed new garden signs. Children were encouraged to help! And help they did! Today the beloved community park is looking better than ever.
What's a Play Day? Well, it's exactly what the name implies. A Play Day helps build awareness for the importance of play, strengthen your community, and bring old-fashioned fun to your neighborhood.
There's still time to hold a Play Day this fall, and we offer free tools and resources to get you started. Meanwhile, get inspired by these photos from Play Days around the country:
Fontana, Ariz. "organized several picnic style games and activities including: hula till you drop, potato sack races, cha cha slide dance contest, and the Rock Paper Scissors Championship of Fontana!!"
Playful City USA Mount Holly, N.C. held a Play Day to celebrate "the official opening and dedication to the new playground at Woodlawn and improved amenities, games, activities, refreshments and prizes."
Activities at Playful City USA Coventry, Conn. "included a climbing wall, moon bounce, inflatable basketball challenge, a costume swap, face painting, pumpkin carving, pony rides... hoop dancing, sports, a giant chess set... and a costume parade and contest!"
Playful City USA Lyerly, Ga. "hosted two Play Days... and both were huge successes! On Thursday, all of the special education students in our county joined at our park for the first Play Day. This was the first time ever that all those kids had the chance to be all together at the same time and place. They also got to test our brand new Jennswing, which allowed several kids who normally aren't able to participate the chance to swing alongside their peers!"
Ready to organize your own Play Day? Get started here.
We have long asserted that playgrounds and gardens go hand in hand—they both nourish communities and help keep kids healthy.
KaBOOM! was recently invited to attend a fall harvest at a very special community garden—at the White House—with First Lady Michelle Obama, White House Chefs Sam Kass and Cris Comerford, Let’s Move Executive Director Judith Palfrey, and a few dozen local children.
If you think your community doesn't have the resources to match the White House garden, you might be surprised to learn that the first White House planting only cost $200. And the small bee hive (pictured below), which is tended to by White House carpenter Charlie Brandt, houses around 70,000 bees.
Throughout the afternoon, we discussed the importance of both good nutrition and physical activity. Palfrey asserted that one of the most important things parents can do to help solve childhood obesity is to make sure their children get to "run and jump and play."
On the way to the kitchen, we passed the White House playground, which sits adjacent to the community garden, and then got some tips on good nutrition from Chef Cris Comerford (pictured above).
Raising healthy kids isn't as difficult as parents might think. But as Let's Move and KaBOOM! both recognize, kids who grow up in "food deserts" and "play deserts" are less likely to have access to veggies and outdoor play opportunities. That's why, according to our motto, a healthy childhood "starts with a playground" -- and a community garden.