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The 2013 Playful City USA Leaders’ Summit: Investing in Children Through Play, sponsored by the Humana Foundation, is coming up on Sept. 23!

This invitation-only summit will bring together city, non-profit, foundation, business and national thought leaders from across the country to advance our collective efforts to ensure that all children get the play that they need to become healthy and successful adults. As the national platform for making play a priority in our communities, summit attendees will be inspired and challenged by preeminent leaders and will build strong networks with peers from across the country that enable cities to be transformed through play.

The summit will feature 11 Team Cities from across the country. The representatives from the Team Cities are doing some of the most innovative work to advance the cause of play in their communities. These communities take unique approaches to engaging partners to implement play agendas that give kids the childhood they deserve. Click here to learn more about our Team Cities.

Speakers include The Honorable Arne Duncan; The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius; Wes Moore, Host of Beyond Belief; and many more. Click here for a complete list of speakers.

Track and join the conversation at #playsummit.


Somewhere along the way, Mom Sarah Hirsch realized that kids’ birthday parties had become less about kids playing musical chairs and more about getting lots of elaborate presents.

When her son Harry turned one, he ended up opening one present every day, just so it wouldn’t overwhelm him. “We were amazed that he got so much stuff,” Sarah says. “It was so generous of our friends and family but also a little embarrassing to receive so many gifts for a one-year-old who was too little to care about presents.” 

During the following year, Sarah realized just how much her son was learning by playing at the area playgrounds. He was growing stronger, his language improved, and he was more aware of the world around him. When it came time to plan his second birthday, she had a new idea.

“I wanted to share our good fortune with others and thought, ‘Instead of having people bring a present, why not ask them to give a donation?’”

She chose KaBOOM! because, as she says, “Everything Harry learns comes from play. What better organization to ask people to donate to than one that revolves all around the importance of play and bringing play to kids? I thought it was a perfect fit for us.”

Sure, Harry still received presents, but Sarah gave guests an option to make a charitable contribution, which resulted in more than $500 donated in Harry’s name.

As the year continued and Harry was invited to other kids’ parties, Sarah continued the charitable trend. Her favorite gift is a $15 contribution to KaBOOM! and a copy of the KaBOOM! outdoor game guide, Go Out and Play!“People are really flattered that we made a donation in their child’s name,” Sarah says.

Harry recently turned three, and Sarah knew how she was going to make his Sesame Street party even more special. “It was a no-brainer that we would do a KaBOOM! party again. Last year was really just the beginning of something that has become a cause in our family. We’re passionate about the importance of play and KaBOOM! is near and dear to our hearts.”

Donations for Harry’s birthday totaled more than $600 this year. Sarah has gotten nothing but compliments from other parents for how she’s “cutting down on the excess” that comes with birthday parties. “I think as Harry begins to understand more about the world, he’ll be really proud of this, too.”


By Bill Shore, Darell Hammond and Amy Celep
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Fall 2013

Overview

By some measures Share Our Strength and KaBOOM! were successful US nonprofits—growing rapidly, engaging numerous partners, and improving the lives of tens of millions of children. Yet all the while, the problems we were tackling—hunger and the lack of opportunities to play—were getting worse and even accelerating in recent years as the economy took a downturn. More than 16 million children in America now live in poverty, up from 11.6 million in 2000. We have witnessed how children who play on KaBOOM! playgrounds benefit physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally, but we face the fact that one in three children is obese or overweight, and one in five suffers from a mental illness, with rates of depression higher than ever before. And the list goes on.

KaBOOM! and Share Our Strength realized that to make significant progress we had to move beyond simple solutions to complex problems, and we had to answer anew, in a much bolder way, the most critical question of all: “What does success look like?” Though it may seem counterintuitive for a non-profit sector already struggling to support, sustain, and scale up its impact—our approach calls for nonprofits to embrace a much heavier lift. We must look beyond short-term achievements that please funders, staff, and stakeholders but yield only incremental change, and instead hold ourselves accountable for the harder-to-achieve long-term outcomes that will ultimately solve social problems.

That is why KaBOOM! is committed to ensuring all children get the balance of active play they need to become healthy and successful adults. Together, we can give all kids the childhood they deserve.

>> Read the full article



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"I dream about having a playground — a real playground, a fun playground  — in our neighborhood. But all we have is an empty lot down the street from my apartment."

When a little girl sees a man measuring the empty lot, she’s sure that he’s there to help make her playground dream come true. And he is!

Inspired by the real story of the first-ever playground build by KaBOOM!, here is the story of how a determined young girl, with the help of her family, friends and community, makes her dream playground in her own neighborhood a reality.

"This book may inspire more than dreams," notes Kirkus Reviews. Written by Kate Becker, VP of Program Management at KaBOOM!, the book's spirited prose is brought to life by illustrator Jed Henry's "charmingly childlike" pictures (Kirkus Reviews). 

Sadly, like the girl depicted in this book, all too many children lack access to a safe place to play. They will learn that with spirit and resolve, they too can make their playground dreams come true. 

Get your copy today at Amazon or from your local bookstore.


At this year’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, Jill Vialet, CEO and Founder of Playworks, discussed unlocking our superpowers. Jill shared her definition of superpowers—"the quirky, authentic, unique mix of personality and talents that are brought to bear in response to a opportunity or a need to breathtaking affect."

Everybody holds superpowers—everyday kids, volunteers at playground builds, and community advocates. Watch Jill’s motivating speech and learn how you can unlock the superpowers of others.


Playgrounds, children and joy: three things that go together about as well as anything.

Promoting the happiness and well-being of kids and families is at the heart of what Disney does each and every day, which is why KaBOOM! and Disney have partnered together to build dozens of playgrounds and community gardens across the U.S.

Disney is a KaBOOM! National Partner and supports the efforts of KaBOOM! to help achieve our vision of a great play to play within walking distance of every child in America. As part of their 2013 efforts with KaBOOM!, Disney will build14 new playgrounds in 10 states and Mexico. By the end of 2013, Disney’s support will bring the magic of play to more than 50,000 children and families. Disney also supports KaBOOM! mapping efforts by encouraging everyone to map playspaces and to help identify areas most in need.

In May, Disney is celebrating 30 years of VoluntEARS – Disney’s companywide volunteer efforts.  KaBOOM! and Disney will celebrate the anniversary by bringing smiles and laughter to thousands of children and families with playground builds in Clermont, Fla., Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Cloud, Fla., and Kailua, Hawaii.

Check out the video link here to Disney’s latest project in Chicago:


When six-year-old Jadon Gotay (now seven) was given a class project to help a nonprofit, he knew he wanted to help an organization that did “fun things for kids.” After asking around, he found KaBOOM! and was immediately smitten.

What does Jadon love about the playground? Most importantly that it’s outside. “I love being outside,” he says. He also loves to “play tag, go on the swings, and climb all the stuff at the playground. There’s always new stuff to do and try.”

To help bring play to kids who aren’t able to spend as much time at the playground, Jadon organized a raffle fundraiser that asked people to guess how many Legos were in a jar. He raised over $500. With the help of his mom, Neida, he also organized a local play day (pictured below) in his hometown of Orlando to get his friends and neighbors out to the playground.

  

When asked how she makes sure that Jadon gets enough time to play, Neida says: “I’m a big believer in letting kids be kids. As a working mom I make sure that he is enrolled in after-school programs that promote play. Our weekends consist of being with the kids and doing fun stuff as a family. We look for new parks and playgrounds in town and make it a priority to try them out.”

Jadon says that play is important because “it’s important to stay active and not be bored all day.” His mom adds that play “helps build imagination, social skills, and even problem-solving skills.” Which is all true—though when it comes down to it, Jadon likes to play for the same reason as children around the world and throughout history have always liked to play: “Because it’s fun.”

Unfortunately, as Jadon has learned, some children are missing out on the fun. We need more kids like him to help bring the fun back to childhood.

  

How many Legos do you think are in the jar? Give Jadon some words of encouragement and make your own guess!


We know what they say about all work and no play. That's why at KaBOOM!, we make an effort to take some time out to recharge. After all, adults need recess too. 

We recently took a field trip to The National Building Museum to experience three of its current exhibits: The Building Zone, PLAY WORK BUILD, and Detroit Disassembled. The first two exhibits helped us see the KaBOOM! ideals of play in action. Detroit Disassembled provided a stark counterpoint -- a reminder of the many places in our country where children lack access to a safe place to play.

  

In The Building Zone (top left), we noted that once you opened the gate, you crossed into a "land of play," moving from observing to doing. "You couldn’t fit one more child in the sandbox," one Boomer noted. "It was so full of play!" Another noted: "My group was amazed by the number of families playing together. In one case we even saw a grandmother, mother and child! I think this really speaks to the level of engagement the exhibits lend themselves to."

  

Moving upstairs to PLAY WORK BUILD, we noticed how the Imagination Playground blocks gave children free reign over how they played. The exhibit provided all the tools necessary to stimulate creative play for children -- and adults. Boomers noticed how the blue blocks, both small and large, "really got parents building too!"

An image from Detroit Disassembled. Photo by Andrew Moore, from the collection of Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell, courtesy of The National Building Musuem.

After so much play, it was time for reflection. The Detroit Disassembled exhibit served as a poignant reminder that play is not everywhere. We all agreed that we must continue to "come together in places where situations are difficult and let resilience and team champions shine through." We need to shift the mindset to see potential, not destruction.
            
During several of our interactions, Boomers noted how parents brought their kids to National Building Musuem consciously because they recognize that their kids "need time to play." Grateful to work at an organization that understands this need also extends to adults, we returned to the office reinvigorated to carry on our mission to give children everywhere the childhood they deserve.


If every community had a "Play Lady" like Pat Rumbaugh, a lot more kids would be getting the daily active play they need. But at the very least, every community can now get a copy of her upcoming book. Let's Play at the Playground is an early reader that will inspire kids and adults alike to go out and play.

As Dr. Stuart L. Brown, Founder and President of The National Institute for Play, puts it, "This joyously pictorial panorama of playground play lifts one's spirit. Its compelling pictures capture the joy of spontaneous play, and evokes the momentum for a lifetime of healthy play, sharing and cooperation."

Pat Rumbaugh, a former physical education teacher, lives in Takoma Park, Md. In March 2009, she founded Takoma Plays, an organization dedicated to promoting play and planning free play events for the community. Thanks to Pat's tireless efforts, KaBOOM! has named Takoma Park a Playful City USA community for four years running.

Let's Play at the Playground is photographed by Daniel Nakamura, a Maryland dad, play advocate, and owner of Booth-o-Rama Photobooths. Pat and Daniel are joining forces to extend the impact of their book by co-founding Let's Play America, an organization that aims to encourage and facilitate efforts like Takoma Plays in cities and towns across the country.

Ready to play? Reserve your autographed copy of Let's Play at the Playground today!


Playgrounds give kids a chance to move their bodies, but the opportunities afforded by a single playground extend beyond physical activity. Kids also get more chances to challenge themselves, exercise their imaginations, and interact with other children and families. A new study conducted by Deborah Puntenney, Ph.D. at Northwestern University, in conjunction with KaBOOM! and Health Care Service Corporation, confirms our motto: “It starts with a playground.”

By the end of 2013, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) and its Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas will have built 39 playgrounds through a partnership with KaBOOM!. The company's support for KaBOOM! is part of its Healthy Kids, Healthy Families program, a three-year initiative designed to improve the health and wellness of at least one million children through community investments.

The study, conducted in 9 cities in 2011, used a learning community model to examine how being part of the KaBOOM! playground building process affects attitudes about the health promotion impact of physical activity and play, and the potential ripple effects associated with the community building aspects of the projects.

Key Findings: Health Promotion

  • Parents and other adults involved in children’s well-being almost universally agree that play is strongly associated with better health for kids. They were aware of this before they started, and this knowledge contributed to their desire to build a playground.
  • 90% of adults believe kids in their community want to play more following the playground build.
  • 96% of adults believe kids in their community are getting more exercise following the playground build.
  • Between 83% and 94% of adults believe that the playground has increased opportunities for higher quality play, including more fun (94%), more creative and challenging play (88% each), and more prospects for skill mastery (83%).
  • The percentage of adults saying kids are “bored” when they are outdoors dropped from 71% to 25% following the playground build.
  • There was an 11% increase the number of adults who said they played outside with kids at least three times a week between the pre- and post-build surveys; among parents the increase was even higher, with a 16% increase in the number indicating they went out to play with their kids this much.

Key Findings: Community Building

  • Adult confidence in their own ability to change the community increased 29% after the playground build.
  • Neighborhood pride increased by 23%, and neighborhood trust increased by 48%.


  

  Photos from KaBOOM! and Blue Cross and Blue Shield playground builds in Tulsa, OK (upper left), Chicago, IL (upper right), Rio Rancho, NM (bottom left), and Marshall, TX (bottom right).

Here, KaBOOM! says thank you to HCSC for its commitment to bringing play to children in need: