By Lynne Jensen
New Orleans Times-Picayune
Jan. 22, 2009
Thanks to KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization that helps communities build playgrounds, children living Uptown, downtown, in eastern New Orleans and along the lakefront are enjoying refurbished play spots in areas that were devastated after Hurricane Katrina.
Shortly after Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast, KaBOOM! launched Operation Playground with a mission of building 100 playgrounds in the region.
Today, Operation REACH and The Chrysler Foundation are joining with KaBOOM! to build a newly designed playground at The Knowledge Garden Child Development Center at 2115 Carondelet St., which serves hundreds of children.
The 100th build from Operation Playground was featured on "Good Morning America" June 17, 2008!
More than 500 volunteers converged on Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park in Bay St. Louis on June 14 to help KaBOOM! and our partners complete the 100th Operation Playground project in the Gulf Coast. In December 2005, KaBOOM! committed to build 100 playgrounds in the region after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, starting with the first in Bay St. Louis. It was only fitting that the 100th playground was built in the town where it all began.
The 100th build was a true community celebration. Not even a midday shower could dampen the enthusiasm of the volunteers from the local community, Fannie Mae, AmeriCorps*NCCC, Gulf Coast Recovery Corps, Keesler Air Force base, and others, many of whom had participated in several previous Operation Playground projects. In just under six hours, the volunteers completed two playground structures, refurbished two basketball courts, and built an extensive new ‘front porch' entrance to the park. They also painted several murals commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, the community and Operation Playground. As a finishing touch, local children created a ‘Heroes Walk' around the park honoring the men and women of the Civil Rights movement.
The project was made possible by a partnership between KaBOOM!, the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Fannie Mae, Foundation for the Mid South, the City of Bay St. Louis, Hancock Housing Resource Center and Powerhouse of Deliverance Church. At 2:30, representatives from each of the organizations, along with the volunteers and past Operation Playground Community Partners, gathered to cut a very special ribbon made up of 100 painted panels representing each of the 100 Operation Playground projects.
Because of Operation Playground, more than 22,000 volunteers have donated their time to build playgrounds for nearly 50,000 children from Houston to Mobile. In all, through Operation Playground, $8.2 million has been invested to build great new places to play in the Gulf Coast by Jim and Donna Barksdale, The Home Depot, Playworld Systems, Fannie Mae, Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, NBA Cares, DJR Foundation, AmeriCares, ESPN, ING Direct and other outstanding partners.
KaBOOM! will continue to build in the region and already has several projects scheduled through December. The 101st and 102nd Operation Playground projects will take place in New Orleans and Biloxi on Saturday, June 28.
KaBOOM! builds 100th playground in the Gulf
"Operation Playground" initiative provides a great place to play for 49,605 children from Houston to Mobile
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast, KaBOOM!, the national non-profit that empowers communities to build playgrounds, made a commitment to build 100 playgrounds in the areas hardest hit by the storms. On June 14th, in Bay St. Louis Miss., KaBOOM! will reach this goal.
"When KaBOOM! began Operation Playground just three months after Hurricane Katrina struck, those outside the area were incredulous, believing that playgrounds were the last thing people needed in the midst of the devastation," said Darell Hammond, CEO and Co-founder, KaBOOM! "But we knew that the Gulf Coast's youngest residents needed safe places to escape the stress of the rebuilding effort and reclaim their childhood."
On Dec. 17, 2005, more than 600 residents and other volunteers came together at Carol Vegas Park in Bay St. Louis, Miss., to build a new playground, the first new permanent structure constructed in the town since Hurricane Katrina. Some wanted to give their kids a safe place to go while they re-built their homes; some remembered the aftermath of Hurricane Camille in 1969 and said they wanted to make sure local children had a place to heal emotionally; and others came out to take action and to be a part of the rebuilding process. On that day, and 98 other days just like it, volunteers transformed an empty lot into a great place to play in just one day.
Following the first build, KaBOOM! and its partners worked with community organizations to build playgrounds in cities from Houston to Mobile. With the generous support of funders such as Jim and Donna Barksdale, The Home Depot, Playworld Systems Inc., Fannie Mae, NBA Cares, the DJR Foundation, AmeriCares, ESPN and ING DIRECT, KaBOOM! has channeled $8.2 million into the area and mobilized more than 21,399 volunteers. Thirty-nine playgrounds were built in New Orleans alone, with 37 across the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.
On June 14th, KaBOOM! is returning to Bay St. Louis and will lead our 100th Operation Playground project at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park. Like all KaBOOM! projects, the process started off with a Design Day where neighborhood children gathered to draw their dream playground. For this build, their pictures included everything from a slide, to a basketball court to a Ferris wheel.
"While their parents took their ideas into consideration, the Ferris wheel didn't make the cut," said Hammond. The new playground at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park will serve 2,000 children from ages 2-12 and is in an area where 97% of the children qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
"This playground will give these neighborhood kids a great place to play everyday. We also need to use victories like our 100th build to thank our committed sponsors and to draw national attention to the ongoing needs of those living in the Gulf," said Hammond. "KaBOOM! and our sponsors will continue to build in the area for as long as there's a need. We've already scheduled our 101st and 102nd playground builds on June 28th, and we have projects scheduled through December."
The 100th and 101st playgrounds are two of seventeen playgrounds made possible by a partnership between KaBOOM! and the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Fannie Mae, and the Foundation for the Mid South.
KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since 1995, KaBOOM! has used its innovative community-build model to bring together business and community interests to construct more than 1,400 new playgrounds, skateparks, sports fields and ice rinks across North America. KaBOOM! also offers a variety of resources, including an online community, regional and national trainings, grants, publications and the KaBOOM! National Campaign for Play, which includes Playful City USA and the Playmaker Network – a national network of individual advocates for play. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! also has offices in Chicago and San Mateo, Calif. For more information, visit www.kaboom.org.
A place to play
By Matt Sloane
May 2, 2008
I had one of the most rewarding experiences of my CNN career Wednesday, and it involved 40 children, about as many parents and some homemade jambalaya at a senior center in Louisiana.
"It starts with a playground" is the slogan for KaBOOM, a national non-profit organization that builds playgrounds. KaBOOM is our newest partner in the fight against childhood obesity. For those 40 kids, and even the parents in the room, it really does all start with a playground.
That's where CNN Fit Nation comes in. For us, it started with a phone call to KaBOOM, and six months later I found myself sitting at this senior center, watching the kids draw their dream playground with crayons. From those drawings, the parents and I sat with KaBOOM staffers and picked the playground equipment that best fit the kids' drawings. Two months from now on June 28, we'll all meet in Metairie to build it, in a shade under 6 hours.
As the parents and adults thanked me for CNN's contribution to their community, I asked all of them for something in return - to use this new playground and to get their children moving and to teach them how to stay healthy well into adulthood.
It's official! The 100th Operation Playground project will take place on Saturday, June 14 at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park in Bay St. Louis, fulfilling a commitment we made to build 100 playgrounds in the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The project will kick off with a Design Day on Apr. 28. Our partners for this special build are the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Fannie Mae, the Foundation for the MidSouth, the Hancock Housing Resource Center and the City of Bay St. Louis.
The first Operation Playground project took place on Dec. 17, 2005 at Carol Vegas Park in Bay St. Louis, and it is so fitting that we will fulfill our commitment back where Operation Playground began nearly three years ago. More than 600 volunteers gathered on that day to help build the first new playground in the Gulf Coast after Katrina and Rita devastated the landscape. It was an amazing day that launched our commitment to build 100 playgrounds in areas affected by the hurricanes. Since then, KaBOOM! and our partners have built 90 playgrounds in towns from Houston to Mobile, bringing play back to the lives of children living in these areas and giving neighbors old and new the chance to rebuild a sense of community lost in the storms. While we will continue to build in the Gulf after the 100th playground, this important milestone will allow us to celebrate our success with friends, draw attention to the ongoing needs of those living in the Gulf and remind people about the importance of having safe and fun places children can play.
The week marks the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and KaBOOM! is proud to say that our Operation Playground is still going strong in the Gulf Coast area. Operation Playground, an initiative to build 100 playgrounds in the areas affected by both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, has passed the halfway mark, with 59 playgrounds built so far.
KaBOOM! has also introduced the Leave a Legacy of Play Fund to include donors who want to help but can't afford to fund an entire build. With the Legacy Fund, donors can now give as little as $1,000 to help fund two great community playgrounds in New Orleans and Long, Beach, MS on October 27. This week, KaBOOM! is bringing together 19 donors for Design Days in the two communities.
KaBOOM! employees recently visited the New Orleans neighborhood that will be receiving the new playground on October 27. The neighborhood children had created their own makeshift "playworld," pictured at above. The kids' imaginations were clearly in full bloom, as they managed to make even a stationary "merry-go-round," right, come to life in their minds. Imagine how excited the kids will be to have a full-size dream playground just a couple blocks from their home!
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour joined 275 volunteers for a KaBOOM! Operation Playground build in Long Beach, MS on March 14. Despite a thunderstorm that left the builders soaked, the volunteers built a beautiful playground for the community.
United Jewish Communities, Alpha Epsilon Pi National Fraternity, and the Long Beach Civic Club provided the volunteers, who moved 190 (very wet) cubic yards of engineered wood fiber, mixed 275 bags of concrete, and filled planters with 110 bags of potting soil and loads of dirt. Gov. Barbour, pictured in the white shirt in the center of the photo, put on a volunteer shirt and got right into the action – he's a true playmaker! He also recognized KaBOOM! for our outstanding work in the rebuilding effort on Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Long Beach mayor Billie Skellie also came to the build and proclaimed the day "Volunteer Day," giving a plaque to KaBOOM! CEO Darell Hammond, pictured at far right.
The playground and several side projects were done by 3 p.m. Kids from the community made thank-you banners and painted images of what they like best about Long Beach, which were hung on the park fence.
"On my way home last night, there was a group of people on my street who said they were going to the new playground to let their kids play," planning committee member Mag Holland said after the build. "I told them they had to wait for Saturday. All the kids were made at me. They can't wait 'till Saturday!"