"In 2002 I was a new mom with an active 1-year old son. One of my friends recommended a brand new playground in town. But, when I got there, everything was wrong. The playground was for older kids, the equipment reached much too high off the ground for my little guy. We had to go back home – not something easy to explain to a toddler.
That’s the moment my play spark ignited – why wasn’t there a place where moms like me could rate and map playgrounds? One place that had pictures, information about restrooms, type of equipment, parking, shade, age-appropriateness, and the million others things that moms need to think about before heading to a park?
I ran with it. I started out with a column in my MOMS Club newsletter and eventually coined the term 'playground blogger.' In November of 2008, with my blog getting just 30 visitors a month, I discovered KaBOOM! and the Map of Play. The KaBOOM! concept was EXACTLY what I envisioned all those years before – and it was already operating on a national scale!
Since then I’ve worked with KaBOOM! as a local expert to improve and expand the map, make it more mom-friendly and easier to use. Working together, just 3 years later, my blog now reaches 14,000 people a month during the summer. Orange County is a metropolis of over 3 million people, but I've built a community of park lovers.
I'm known in different circles as 'Play Mom' or 'The Park Lady' or, my favorite, 'The Queen of Play.' I solve riddles about where to find the tallest slides, playgrounds without sand, baby swings by the beach, and even where to take a kid who is fanatical about tarantulas and bats. Want to go to a park and hit a farmers market without having to buckle your twins into two car seats twice? I’ve got that covered, too.
Through KaBOOM!, I hope I'm inspiring communities and future playground bloggers nationwide, to share places to play because I believe PLAY is not optional."
– Michele Whiteaker, FunOrangeCountyParks.com
Michele has inspired her community to get out and play, she inspires us to build a nationwide movement to do the same thing.
Play it forward to build the Map of Play to help moms like Michele across the country find great places to play.
On April 6th, 2011 KaBOOM!, the Salvation Army Temple Corps Community Center and Energizer built a great new place to play in St. Louis. While at a community carnival a week after Build Day, a group of concerned parents approached Steve and John (who had helped lead the build) about vandalism and other inappropriate activities happening on the playground after hours. They decided they right then and there that they will be forming a neighborhood watch group to take care of the playground!
Play it forward with a donation today to support our model of community-built playgrounds which give communities ownership and pride in their great new places to play.
“When my son was born sixteen years ago, my life changed. As a new mom of a child with a disability I was quickly realizing how many challenges and hurdles we would both face in the years ahead. But my heart broke when I realized that there were no real playgrounds, or any type of place for my son to play with other children in an unstructured way. Play is a necessity for all children, and especially important for disabled kids. I knew I had to take action.
With the help of four other moms we started the Center for Creative Play, and indoor play space for unstructured play that was accessible for all children. Within 5 years we had over 45,000 visitors a year. We started working on accessible playground across the country and worked with KaBOOM! to make accessible playgrounds a reality.”
– Mara Kaplan, Pittsburgh, PA
Mara saw a need and worked to fill it. Her passion for building accessible playgrounds is contagious and her work will continue until all kids have a great place to play.
Play it forward with a donation to help bring play to ALL kids, without exception.
“Our kids have not had a safe place to interact with other kids until KaBOOM! helped build a playground three blocks from our home. Now they go and play more and through the build my wife and I made some new friends in our area. Thanks. I think you guys are doing a wonderful thing, keep up the good work.”
– Steve Green, Champaign, IL
Play it forward with a donation today to help us give all kids a safe place to play within walking distance of their home.
"I am on the Board of our local Community Development Corporation in my town - The Colony - in Texas. In my position I get to help direct tax payer dollars to community enrichment and recreation projects - like parks, trails and playgrounds. I had always viewed this as a big responsibility, which I took very seriously. When we were installing new playgrounds I would be sure to inspect each one - did we get all the parts we paid for? Was it installed correctly? Is it well-lit? Was there any graffiti on the equipment? I viewed my role in a very utilitarian light.
Then, one summer afternoon, everything changed. I brought my grandson, Jace, to see one of the new playgrounds we'd just installed. While Jace was playing I sat down on a bench and started watching the other kids on the playground that day - four 10 year old boys. In front of my eyes I watched PLAY happen. One boy yelled to the other 'I need you on the bridge, Captain!' and others were working to make the ship 'space bound' from the 'engine room.'
In that moment I saw the creativity emerge from these boys. I fully understood the vital importance of PLAY in a way I never had before. Everything about what my role was on the CDC Board changed - from not only being a guardian of tax payer money but to being a guardian of play also. I went back to my fellow Board members and explained what I had witnessed and experienced. Encouraged by a new passion and determination I believe our entire Board has embraced the importance of what we do for our community in a stronger way and all the projects we work on in the future.
I also found a new understanding of my community when I wrote our city's Playful City USA application. This new understanding of PLAY has truly changed the work I do for my community. Our Play Task Force hosted an entire month of Play in September - playTC! Month. Hundreds of people experienced new adventures and opportunities to play in The Colony."
– Lisa Leary, The Colony, TX
Lisa discovered the importance of PLAY and used that new-found passion and determination to help make her entire community more playful.
Play it forward to keep helping people like Lisa discover the importance of PLAY.
"My first playground project presented many challenges. The arsenic-laced soil where they playground was supposed to be caused a $60,000 problem and a year’s delay. The second playground I built was another challenge – the playground equipment had been purchased years before, and had, by then, fallen out of code with the American Disability Act.
But, we saw this as a blessing in disguise – while we had to fundraise to purchase additional playground equipment – the new equipment meant the playground would be accessible to ALL children. The third playground project I led was on the rooftop of an 18-floor building with a broken freight elevator. That, paired with epic heat and torrential downpours made for possibly the worst volunteer day I’d ever had.
You have to wonder why anyone, after all that, would build a fourth playground, which is what I did this summer. I work in early childhood development in Worcester, MA. Years ago we did a study as to why so many kids had developmental delays and one obvious need bubbled to the top – we needed more and better playgrounds. I knew what I had to do, and I went to KaBOOM! for help.
After attending several days of training, and working alongside KaBOOM! to build a great new place to play, I returned home and got to work. Four amazing playgrounds later, I know it was worth all the blood, sweat and tears that went into them. I can see it in the faces of the kids playing there every day."
– Dianne Bruce, Worcester, MA
Dianne built once with us, and four times (so far) without us, and now there are five more great places to play in the country thanks to her.
Play it forward so we can keep inspiring and teaching people like Dianne to build great places to play in communities that need them.
“I was just flipping through a magazine the summer of 2010 when an article about KaBOOM! stirred something in me. There was a deserted lot in my neighborhood that had stood empty and vacant for over 16 years. We had been promised a playground for years – it was time for action. Along with three other parents in the community, we decided to start a 501C3 and stop waiting.
It started with the KaBOOM! Imagination Playground™ giveaway, in which we placed 5th! Our group got to work, and the KaBOOM! online resources, webinars and trainings were an invaluable resource. We began fundraising, learning about volunteer management, learning about how to manage a community build – all thanks to the online project planner. We had never done anything like this before, but we were determined to make a change.
This summer, less than a year after we started, a new playground went up in that barren, empty lot. As we raised the mast on the new pirate-ship themed playground, we knew it was something we would never forget. Nicole Distefano, our secretary, said it best, ‘I have a profound respect for playgrounds now.’”
– Jacqueline Miller, Stillwater, NY
The Friends of the Stillwater Glen Hollow Park knew their community needed a playground, they knew where to go to learn how to do it, and they built it with the resources from their own community.
Play it forward so we can keep inspiring and teaching people like Jacqueline how to build their own playgrounds.
On April 21st, 2011 KaBOOM!, Nuestros Ninos CD School and Dr Pepper Snapple Group built a great new place to play in Brooklyn.
Now, the kids are more tired and getting tons of exercise running around, on and under their new playground. For the first time they have a hard time getting the kids to go inside.
Play it forward with a donation today, because kids need play to stay healthy.
"When we moved into our neighborhood two and a half years ago, it was (and is) still very much in the midst of recovery from Hurricane Katrina. We were immediately struck by the lack of community space...somewhere for kids and neighbors to gather, play and build relationships. Our local 'playground' – which consisted of a broken metal slide and two swing-sets with no swings – had been identified by the city government as one that needed to be rebuilt, but there was no information about how or when that was going to happen.
That’s when KaBOOM! happened. I sent off a quick email to a staff member there, Shira, and within 30 minutes we were on the phone talking about our new playground. That was late September; our playground was built on December 18th. Our playground, and Build Day, accomplished everything we thought it might – kids and adults are both meeting their neighbors and building relationships – it’s truly incredible.
When we were chosen to receive a new Imagination Playground, a set of large blue foam blocks like life-size tinker toys, I knew we were truly blessed. We take these blocks out into the community as often as we can – to schools who are still without playgrounds, to community events and our monthly movie nights. Recently I discovered that by creating a loose perimeter for the blocks kids are playing even more WITH each other, instead of just grabbing a few blocks and playing by themselves. I am humbled and so thankful for everything we’ve received from KaBOOM!."
– Alf Nelson, New Orleans, LA
Alf spoke up for the community he knew he could have, and with our help, and a lot of work, his neighborhood is thriving.
Play it forward with a donation today so we can keep building up neighborhoods like Alf’s.
“It was my first week in Boston - orientation week for new students at Boston University. As part of our schedules for the week I signed up for a child-focused service project and couldn’t help but gulp when I saw our assignment – build a new playground – in one day.
Needless to say, I was incredulous. I had NO idea how to build a playground, I wasn’t strong enough to lift anything very heavy, it was going to be an incredibly hot day, and how could we possibly build an entire playground in just one day?
But, thanks to KaBOOM!, it was exactly the opposite of what I had been afraid of. I was amazed at the diversity of people, so many of them as doubtful as I was, who came together to work as a unified force.
We came together as one, not because we knew anything about playgrounds, mulch, or mixing concrete, but because we all had the same goal – to build a great new place to play. We struggled together, worked as a team, and in just 6 hours time we watched as the kids ran out to see their new, shiny, beautiful playground. What an amazing day!”
– Genevieve Fasano, Boston, MA
KaBOOM! helps volunteers like Genevieve discover the power of community.
Play it forward to help more volunteers discover the power of teamwork.