We were touched to see over 400 people send KaBOOM! 15th birthday wishes via our online card! We brought a 171-page (!) printed copy to our 2000th playground build on Wednesday, June 15 so that the First Lady herself could add her signature and birthday message.
If you haven't signed our card yet, it's not too late! Click here to send your birthday wishes.
KaBOOM! is also happy to accept birthday gifts, which will be sure to put a smile on a child's face. Each gift will help us build our next 2,000 playgrounds so that we can get one step closer to our vision of a playground within walking distance of every child.
Click here to send your gift.
Join the First Lady and our staff in wishing KaBOOM! a very Happy Birthday!
Over the past week, leading up to yesterday's 2000th build and 15th birthday celebration with First Lady Michelle Obama, we have been reminiscing about our 15 years of building playgrounds by posting photos from our archives to our Facebook page -- and asking YOU to caption them.
The one million volunteers who have pitched in their time and sweat to help us build 2,000 playgrounds know that it's a lot of work. Yet, as these photos demonstrate, we don't forget to leave some time for play!
Help us choose the winners of our Photo Caption Challenge by hitting the 'Like' button for up to three of your favorite captions per photo. You'll be sure to giggle!
Vote by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, June 19. Winners receive a KaBOOM! T-shirt or water bottle, and an everlasting sense of triumph.
As early as 5:30 this morning, purple-shirted volunteers could be seen congregating at Imagine Southeast Public Charter School in Washington, DC to build our 2000th playground and celebrate our 15th birthday. Imagine Southeast, a tuition-free public charter school, has had no playground equipment at all for its 480 students—but that was all about the change.
After a week of extreme heat, we were relieved to find the sun shining not quite-so-fiercely, as hours of mulch-shoveling, concrete-mixing, slide-hoisting, and other physically demanding tasks lay ahead of us. The day officially kicked off with some invigorating warm-up exercises around 8:30 a.m. Among those in attendance were 150 parents and staff from Imagine Southeast, over 85 Boomers (KaBOOM! staff), and AmeriCorps volunteers. We wasted no time getting to work: There were rock walls to assemble; gardens to plant; picnic tables to build; and murals to paint.
As afternoon approached, some semblance of a playground was starting to emerge and the mulch pile looked quite a bit less daunting. Still, we knew we could use some extra hands, and luckily, help was on the way. Joining us were some very special volunteers from the White House – members of Congress, who were participating in the 2011 Congressional Day of Service Event; the Honorable Arne Duncan (below left); and First Lady Michelle Obama!
Said the First Lady, "You all make sure you help take care of this playground. You make sure that kids get over here and play. We want you all moving." Mrs. Obama is not a playground-building novice -- in June 2009, she joined California First Lady Maria Shriver at Bret Harte Elementary School in San Francisco to transform the school’s vacant play lot into an intergenerational playground and garden.
But this time, Mrs. Obama wanted to try her hand at something new. "I’m going to mix concrete!" she announced. "It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to mix concrete." We quickly put the First Lady, the Honorable Duncan, and our Congress members to work, and in just over an hour, the finished playground sparkled under the afternoon sun.
As Mrs. Obama prepared to cut the ribbon (above right, with our CEO and Founder Darell Hammond), we hummed “Happy Birthday” to KaBOOM! through hundreds of purple and orange kazoos to close out a thoroughly exhausting, thoroughly rewarding day.
Our 2,000th build was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with the participation of our National Partners Dr Pepper Snapple, Foresters, Kraft Foods Foundation, JetBlue, and MetLife Foundation. It represents the collective effort of not just the hundreds of volunteers who were present, but also the one million volunteers who over the past 15 years have contributed their time and sweat to give 5,501,334 children a great place to play.
All photos by Chris Sopher, courtesy of the Knight Foundation.
As you may know, next week we'll be celebrating our 15th birthday by building our 2000th playground at Imagine Southeast Public Charter School! We're honored that our 2,000th build has also been designated The Congressional Day of Service Event for 2011!
How will a playground help transform Imagine Southeast? We've already heard from the students of Imagine Southeast, who shared with us their dream playground designs. And we heard from an Imagine Southeast teacher, Mrs. Shacola Nickens, who emphasized the importance of play in education.
But we haven't heard yet from the parents of Imagine Southeast, who are just as excited about the playground as their children!
Vickie Moore says, "My son is so looking forward to the playground at ISE. He tells me that for so long when they had outdoor recess they had absolutely nothing to play with. All they did was run and play tag....now he knows he will have a variety of playground equipment to play with."
Adds Fran Jackson, "My daughter loves to climb and swing. So I know she will be entertained with the beautiful playground. Having a playground at school will help relieve some of her energy before we go home. I keep reminding myself that all the work is for a good cause and the end result will make the children happy."
Mr. Mills think the playground is "a great idea! [It] will help the children learn how to interact with one another and develop important communication skills as well.”
Learn more about our 2000th build and join us in celebrating 15 years and 2,000 playgrounds by signing our online birthday card! Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to see the playground build in action on June 15!
Suddenly, everyone is talking about play – and that’s because our Founder and CEO’s memoir, KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, is a national bestseller!
KaBOOM! is number 4 on The New York Times Bestseller list, number 7 on The Wall Street Journal Bestseller List, number 49 on the USA Today Bestseller list. When the book launched on April 26, it also ranked number one on Amazon.com!
This exciting exposure gives us a unique opportunity to introduce folks across the country to our movement to save play. It’s our goal to move the national conversation about play to mass community-based action. We want to see moms, dads, educators, and advocates like you improving and building local playgrounds, mapping the state of play in your community, and rallying to save play for your neighborhood children.
Get started by hosting a book party to get your friends and neighbors talking about play! Download our DIY Book Party Toolkit.
Our CEO and Founder's long-anticipated book, KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, launches today and already ranks among Amazon's top 10 bestsellers! This represents an tremendous opportunity to grow our movement and to enlist moms, dads, teachers, and community advocates nationwide in the fight to save play.
Help us keep up the momentum! Here are five things you can do get people talking:
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.