"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.
"In the beginning I was just a mom who didn’t want her kids to have to go to a school without a playground.
Our current playground had been built 50 years ago, and did not meet current safety standards – it was due to be removed. The district didn’t have the money to replace it, and if our local PTA couldn’t raise the funds, there would be no playground. What’s a mom of two boys to do? Volunteer to lead the playground committee, of course.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I volunteered. I didn’t know about the costs of equipment, safety standards, special wood chips, or working with cities and school districts. All I knew is that we needed a new playground, and fast. I did my homework and we needed to raise $100,000 for our new playground. That’s a pretty big goal for a school with a 50% free and reduced school lunch rate.
That’s when I found KaBOOM!. Their website took me step by step through the playground build process. I got great fund raising ideas, and fell in love with the community build model. We could save money and come together as a community.
Within a year, we had the funding for the majority of our playground build. The community build was an experience I’ll never forget. We had school family members, community members, and even the Mayor at our build!
Thanks to the build, the city became more and more interested in the cause of play. We have been a Playful City USA for the past two years. I help the city with the Playful City application each year, and am part of the play committee for the City of Kenmore. I’m excited that our city values the health and happiness of our youngest residents and understands the importance of play. The city is leading its first community build this spring.
Now I help out other schools in the area when they start a playground project. I am passionate about helping in any way I can to ensure all kids have a safe playspace that they can walk to and enjoy with family and friends."
– Stacey Denuski, Kenmore, WA
Stacey saw a need in her community and she addressed it. Along the way she found the resources and tools she needed from KaBOOM!.
Play it forward so we can keep providing tools and resources to future playground committee chairs, and everyone else looking to make a difference.
"I didn’t know a single person when I moved to Takoma Park, Maryland just over two years ago. But, luckily one of my neighbors turned out to be Pat Rumbaugh, a true force of nature and play advocate for our entire community. She talked me into joining her Takoma Plays! group and I haven’t looked back since.
This past summer I was excited to lead a new project – traveling playgrounds – based on something we used to do in Massachusetts. For 5 weeks, twice a week, we held a playgroup in a different Takoma Park playground. We had music, arts and crafts activities, hula hoops, balls, bubbles, you name it. We provided a fun, free service to our community, and by taking surveys of each playground, got invaluable feedback from residents. We took that feedback and added it to the KaBOOM! Map of Play and now citizens of Takoma Park can find out where the best playgrounds are, and even more importantly, KaBOOM! can see where there aren’t any playgrounds.
When I'm tired, and have a load of laundry to do, and dinner to make, and have zero energy, I know that taking the kids to the park for an hour will rejuvenate me. I believe that communities in which people know each other, interact with each other, and play with each other are safer, healthier, and happier. That’s what keeps me going!"
– Mary Hanisco, Takoma Park, MD
Mary found that play not only helps kids build relationships, but that it’s just as important for adults.
Play it forward with a donation today, and in honor of Mary, get out and play with your kids today!
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.
The Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP is a new program designed to recognize NFL players who are making a positive impact in their local communities through charitable programs and contributions.
The Neighborhood MVP program will reward 17 players, one for each week of the regular season, with a football field refurbishment or a playground build in their honor and a donation to the charity of their choice. Each player will work with representatives from KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit whose vision is to create a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America, and volunteers from The Home Depot and the local community to complete the field refurbishment or playground build projects. Learn more about this program and vote for The Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP! [More]
In the summer of 2007, KaBOOM! tasked Northwestern University's ABCD Institute to undertake a one-year study to measure the impact our KaBOOM!-led builds have on communities.
The results are in, and findings indicate that when implemented appropriately, the KaBOOM! Community-Build process creates a lasting impact on the communities it partners with, both in terms of building capacity, enhancing community pride and cultivating KaBOOM!-leadership, as well as enhancing the play experience of neighborhood children.
Some of the findings include:
Download the executive summary (PDF, approx. 32Kb)
Download the presentation (PDF, approx. 700Kb)