We’re thrilled to announce that KaBOOM! has made The NonProfit Times' list of “50 Best Nonprofits to Work For”—for the second year in a row! We wholeheartedly agree. After all, how many offices have a tire swing in the lobby? Hopscotch in the hallways? Bottomless supplies of PB&J in the kitchen?
These little perks are just the tip of the iceberg. In honor of making The NonProfit Times’ list yet again, we’d like to resurrect the “Top 10 reasons we love working at KaBOOM!” They are every bit as true today as they were a year ago:
All new Boomers are given a purple polo, a sweatshirt, a T-shirt and a backpack. Whether we’re building playground, going on a weekend hike or just heading to the office, we wear our gear with pride!
Forget the drab grays and browns that define most office spaces. Our offices are painted in our signature colors—orange and purple—and the walls themselves are enough to brighten even the gloomiest of days. We adorn our workspaces with colorful name tags that we draw ourselves on chalkboards, and we hold meetings in conference rooms with names like “Sunny,” “Babble On” and “Play Pen.”
The first things to greet Washington, DC Boomers when they walk in the door each morning are a slide and a tire swing. Between our three offices, we also have Imagination Playground blocks, a foosball table, a ping pong table, kazoos and an abundance of arts and crafts materials. We all know children need to play, but that doesn’t mean that adults can’t play, too!
Just having play equipment doesn’t mean it always gets utilized, so each month, two Boomers in each office are designated as Culture Captains. The Culture Captains are charged with planning a fun team-building activity or event that everyone can participate in. Past events have included musical chairs, pumpkin decorating contests, scavenger hunts and costume contests.
Because eating well and playing well are both essential to good health, each month, Boomers get a chance to take a break from their busy schedules and enjoy lunch together. The kitchen is turned into an a-la-carte deli with cheeses, meats, veggies, chips, salads and beverages set up for an elementary-school cafeteria feast! And of course, we don’t skimp on the PB&J—because there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich to reawaken your inner child.
Each year all KaBOOM! staff from all three offices get together for a multi-day retreat, where we do a lot of learning, a lot of planning and a lot of playing! Past Play Academy activities have included creating our own board games, acting in “Boomerpiece Theater” and singing karaoke. This past year we got our CEO and CFO up on the karaoke stage; if only we had video footage!
We not only take the time to appreciate and recognize other Boomers for a job well done—we do it playfully! When Boomers start at KaBOOM!, they get a sandbox bucket and a shovel notepad. The notepad is to write notes of appreciation for coworkers (called “giving sand”) and the sandbox is to collect notes from others. In 2006, an incredible 65% of Americans received no recognition in the workplace. Our deliberate sandbox practice ensures that 100% of Boomers are given credit where credit is due.
Not everyone has what it takes to be a Boomer. Our extensive, selective hiring process helps ensure that all Boomers have a “can do, will do” spirit and are always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. While Boomers are an incredibly diverse bunch, we all share a commitment to service; a passion for children and communities; and an uncanny zest for life, work and play.
Of course, we couldn’t do what we do without our dedicated and spirited volunteers! Any Boomer can tell you how gratifying it is to help recruit a community member to our cause, unleash their creativity, and then step back and watch them blossom! There’s only so much that our 80+ Boomers can do, and our volunteers enable, amplify and support our efforts.
Satisfaction of a job well done
At KaBOOM! we get results. Whether we’re calling clients, answering web queries or wielding a sledge hammer, all of us know that we are part of a collective effort with a measurable, positive impact on society. With nearly 2,000 playground builds under our belt, a vibrant and growing online community, and support from a long list of celebrities and sponsors, we can come to work each day knowing that we’re doing our part to strengthen communities and restore play in the lives of our nation’s children.
At KaBOOM!, we believe in the importance of play, and we also believe in the power of civic engagement. That’s why we build playgrounds. We actively involve local communities in the planning and building process, inspiring them to engage with and care for their playspaces for years after the concrete sets.
On “Make a Difference Day,” this Saturday, October 23, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Patrick Corvington will join KaBOOM!, the Knight Foundation, and other White House cabinet members to build a playground, along with the parents, staff and students of Hyde Leadership Public Charter School. This will be the 1,894th build KaBOOM! has led over the past 14 years, and is one of 13 to be built by KaBOOM! and Knight Foundation this year.
Planning for the playground began at Design Day, held in August at Hyde-DC, during which students, parents and local community leaders met with organizers from KaBOOM! to design their dream playground. The students’ drawings were then used to create the final playground design.
As much as kids love swings and slides, we are excited to complement the community-built play structure with an Imagination Playground™ in a Box. Complete with custom-designed blue foam blocks and elements that encourage sand and water play, Imagination Playground™ in a Box allows children to constantly reconfigure their environment and design their own course of play.
We’ll be building the playground this Saturday in just six hours, but we know it will serve as a catalyst for community engagement, physical health, and creative growth for years to come. That’s why we say, “It starts with a playground.”
Kraft Foods Foundation understands that a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about eating well. It also requires exercise—and for kids, that means lots of regular outdoor play.
As our newest official National Partner, Kraft Foods is serving alongside KaBOOM! as a proponent of the importance of play and will assist in creating solutions to address the play deficit currently existing in thousands of communities nationwide.
The new national partnership is launching this week, with over 1,300 Kraft Foods employees volunteering to build 13 playgrounds across the country. These playgrounds, part of Kraft Foods’ Make A Delicious Difference Week, will eventually serve more than 100,000 children.
Kraft employees, including CEO Irene Rosenfeld (bottom left), are hard at work putting up playgrounds this week as part of their international effort to Make A Delicious Difference.
Our CEO and Co-Founder Darell Hammond says, “With passionate National Partners like Kraft Foods Foundation, we can make great strides in moving the cause of play forward and ensuring that every child has a place to play every day, and build a healthy active lifestyle.”
Recognizing that play is critical to the development of children, Kraft Foods is not only helping to build new playgrounds, but is also investing in the ongoing development of tools and resources that communities can use to ensure that children across the country have access to a great place to play within walking distance of their homes.
What if our nation were able to capitalize on the energy of Americans willing to serve and volunteer for a year or more?
That's the key question posed by Shirley Sagawa in her book, The American Way to Change: How National Service & Volunteers Are Transforming America. The truth is, there's a lot of unharnessed energy out there, and Sagawa shows us how we can tap into it. She profiles real volunteers, as well as the organizations that helped motivate them.
And, we're happy to report, one of those organizations is KaBOOM!. We're not just about building playgrounds and saving play, we're also about developing communities by empowering and uniting local volunteers. Here's one story Sagawa shares in the book:
"Cynthia Gentry thought a new playground would be a fitting way to memorialize her next-door neighbors--a mom and her two young children who were killed in an automobile accident. After consulting the grief-stricken father, she teamed up with other friends and neighbors who wanted some good to come out of the tragedy. But where to begin? ...Gentry searched the Web, found the KaBOOM! online playground planner, and used the Do-It-Yourself tools to help organize the project. Gentry led hundreds of community members who raised funds, solicited donated materials and worked together to build a new place to play."
Sagawa goes on to outline how Gentry kept in close touch with us after the playground was completed and continues to champion the cause of play in her hometown of Atlanta. Says Sagawa, "The path that Cynthia Gentry took, from volunteer to civic activist, is well-traveled."
If you're a self-described "ordinary person" looking to impact your community in an extraordinary way, read more from Sagawa here.
David Hessekiel, founder of the Cause Marketing Forum, recently ranked KaBOOM! and Home Depot's "1,000 Playspaces in 1,000 Days" as fourth in his list of top ten most influential cause marketing campaigns!
1,000 Playgrounds in 1,000 Days (2005 to 2008): The Home Depot and KaBOOM took employee volunteerism to new heights with this national three-year program to build great places for kids to play within walking distance of their homes.
Check out the blog post to see what other inspiring campaigns made the list!
Before they compete in the 2010 Pro Bowl Jan. 31, some of the NFL’s biggest stars are coming together together as one team today to build a playground with KaBOOM! as part of the largest community program in the league’s history. Following morning practices Pro Bowl players, coaches and Bank of America community volunteers will spend the afternoon working to improve the South Florida community as part of the first-ever "NFL PLAY 60 Community Blitz" in celebration of the Pro Bowl.
The playground build will take place at RISE Academy School of Science and Technology, a free public charter elementary school in Broward County. Players will be joined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, as well as ESPN commentators Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski and Mike Tirico and will work with KaBOOM!, RISE students, Bank of America associates and other community volunteers to construct a customized playground at the school, which is currently without a gym or play area.
Simultaneously, other players and Bank of America associates will be working on two other service projects in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. All the projects are each designed to help local children stay healthy and active as part of NFL PLAY 60, the league’s campaign to fight childhood obesity. Bank of America also will donate $100,000 to PLAY 60 non-profit community partners as part of the program.
You can learn more information about the Blitz here and we'll be live-tweeting the event throughout the day. Then you can see all the great players who helped build the playground in action when the Pro Bowl is played on Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN!
UPDATE: Photos from the build are now available on the NFL website.
Sunday was a great day to relax and watch some football, with teams battling for the chance to play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. A round of congrats are in order for the Indianapolis Colts, who will try and win their second Super Bowl in the last four years after beating the New York Jets in a come-from-behind 30-17 victory yesterday! The Colts are great champions for the cause of play, having partnered with KaBOOM! to build playgrounds in each of the last two years.
Thanks to the generosity of the Colts, National Starch and Lucas Oil, the students at Eliza Blaker School 55 in Indianapolis now have a great, wonderful place to play. On Sept. 29, 255 volunteers took time out of their schedules to build a brand new playground that serves the 300+ children who attend the school. Several Colts players, including Hank Baskett, Kyle Devan, Jamie Silva, Jordan Senn, and Pierre Garcon were on hand to help build the playground. In 2008, the Colts and National Starch partnered with KaBOOM! to give the children at Daniel Webster Family Academy a great place to play (video here).
It was almost an “all-KaBOOM!” Super Bowl matchup this year as the Minnesota Vikings, who have built four playgrounds with KaBOOM! and The Toro Company, lost in overtime to the New Orleans Saints 31-28.
More fun will come this week as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and several NFL players will join hundreds of volunteers for a playground build on Thursday in South Florida in conjunction with the NFL PLAY 60 Community Blitz. Taking place prior to the Pro Bowl (Sunday, Jan. 31), the NFL PLAY 60 Community Blitz is the largest community program in the league’s history. NFL PLAY 60 is designed to tackle childhood obesity through programming, grants and media time for public service announcements.
I think it goes without saying that no matter who your team is, NFL PLAY 60 is something we can all cheer for!
In honor of both the National Day of Service and Inspiration Monday, I have a very special story to share with you.
One of the things I like best about KaBOOM! is that no two playgrounds we build are the same. Every one is custom-designed by the kids and families who will use it, tailored to the needs of that specific community.
And for one particular playground build with SUPERVALU in Bakersfield, Calif. on Oct. 29, the community had very specific needs that needed to be met. This playground was built to serve an after-school program for children with autism. And, well, I'll let Ramona Puget, who runs the program, explain what a difference it made:
This playground has been a blessing for this program. Our students did not have an outdoor activity other than riding bikes to play on and dirt to kick a ball on. For autistic children this is not really motivating for them, nor do they have the coordination to do these activities real well. They need to be very active in running, and manipulating objects. With the sensory component of the bells, xylophone, drums, climbing structure and movement of the bus, it helps them to control those areas they have strong points in.
The children who would not play are PLAYING with others on the structure, and not just parallel play. The joy and excitement we see in their overall personalities is priceless. They are happy, elated with a sense of pride that this is their playground and they look forward to coming to "Fun School"! The other day it was a little windy, and started to drizzle, and the children were upset because they did not want to come in because they were having so much fun. So through the wind and drizzle we continued to play and had a day of unexpected play weather. Nothing can stop them from enjoying this playground, not even the elements.
Do you have experience working with kids with autism? What would your dream playground for them look like?
Inspiration Monday is a regular KaBOOM! blog feature.
With the holiday season winding down and a new year fast approaching, we figured that the good cheer shouldn’t have to dwindle! It’s in this spirit that we give you the last Inspiration Monday of 2009. But don’t worry! There are plenty of great stories to continue into 2010, and many more memories to be made!
There's something to be said about the physical transformation of a space that happens when a brand new playground is built. What one might not realize, however, is that when a community works together to accomplish this task, the greatest transformation tends to be something intangible: the changing of minds.
Such a change occurred in the city of La Habra, Calif. following its playground build at Corona Park on Aug. 15. It was here that 214 adult volunteers and 50 children (playing games and wielding paintbrushes for their own 1x1 murals) came together to turn an empty lot where gangs tended to congregate into a safe haven of community pride and fellowship. A week following the opening, one of the residents who was asked about how the playground looked stated that she hadn’t been able to see the playground due to the number of kids enjoying it!
However, the lasting effect has been on the neighborhood as a whole. Followers have become leaders. There have been stories of neighbors putting aside their disputes and using the park as a place of gathering and camaraderie. In an area usually full of gang activity, there hasn’t been a single instance of vandalism on the site and, in fact, it seems to be protected from such occurrences as a safe place for the children. Gangs have dissipated because parents are actually sitting outside with their kids. There’s always someone to watch over the playground and keep it clean and neat, and the park has even become the host to numerous activities including monthly community meetings (with higher attendance than ever)!
"Inspiration Monday" is a new, regular KaBOOM! blog feature.
KaBOOM! Chief Financial Officer Gerry Megas was honored by the Washington Business Journal as the region’s Non-Profit CFO of the Year on Wednesday evening.
Selected over stiff competition, Gerry’s contributions have led KaBOOM! to a more secure financial situation and increased its operating reserve by bringing in his experience from the for-profit sector as a CPA and CFO for U.S. Foodservice.
Joining KaBOOM! in 2006, Gerry initiated a number of changes in accounting, budgeting and financial controls to ensure the stability of the organization, helping to almost double its contribution to net assets from $907,000 in 2007 to $1.5 million in 2008. In 2007, Gerry established a financial plan that increased the KaBOOM! organizational operating reserve from a capacity of two months to nine months by the end of 2008.