In honor of both the National Day of Service and Inspiration Monday, I have a very special story to share with you.
One of the things I like best about KaBOOM! is that no two playgrounds we build are the same. Every one is custom-designed by the kids and families who will use it, tailored to the needs of that specific community.
And for one particular playground build with SUPERVALU in Bakersfield, Calif. on Oct. 29, the community had very specific needs that needed to be met. This playground was built to serve an after-school program for children with autism. And, well, I'll let Ramona Puget, who runs the program, explain what a difference it made:
This playground has been a blessing for this program. Our students did not have an outdoor activity other than riding bikes to play on and dirt to kick a ball on. For autistic children this is not really motivating for them, nor do they have the coordination to do these activities real well. They need to be very active in running, and manipulating objects. With the sensory component of the bells, xylophone, drums, climbing structure and movement of the bus, it helps them to control those areas they have strong points in.
The children who would not play are PLAYING with others on the structure, and not just parallel play. The joy and excitement we see in their overall personalities is priceless. They are happy, elated with a sense of pride that this is their playground and they look forward to coming to "Fun School"! The other day it was a little windy, and started to drizzle, and the children were upset because they did not want to come in because they were having so much fun. So through the wind and drizzle we continued to play and had a day of unexpected play weather. Nothing can stop them from enjoying this playground, not even the elements.
Do you have experience working with kids with autism? What would your dream playground for them look like?
Inspiration Monday is a regular KaBOOM! blog feature.
With the holiday season winding down and a new year fast approaching, we figured that the good cheer shouldn’t have to dwindle! It’s in this spirit that we give you the last Inspiration Monday of 2009. But don’t worry! There are plenty of great stories to continue into 2010, and many more memories to be made!
There's something to be said about the physical transformation of a space that happens when a brand new playground is built. What one might not realize, however, is that when a community works together to accomplish this task, the greatest transformation tends to be something intangible: the changing of minds.
Such a change occurred in the city of La Habra, Calif. following its playground build at Corona Park on Aug. 15. It was here that 214 adult volunteers and 50 children (playing games and wielding paintbrushes for their own 1x1 murals) came together to turn an empty lot where gangs tended to congregate into a safe haven of community pride and fellowship. A week following the opening, one of the residents who was asked about how the playground looked stated that she hadn’t been able to see the playground due to the number of kids enjoying it!
However, the lasting effect has been on the neighborhood as a whole. Followers have become leaders. There have been stories of neighbors putting aside their disputes and using the park as a place of gathering and camaraderie. In an area usually full of gang activity, there hasn’t been a single instance of vandalism on the site and, in fact, it seems to be protected from such occurrences as a safe place for the children. Gangs have dissipated because parents are actually sitting outside with their kids. There’s always someone to watch over the playground and keep it clean and neat, and the park has even become the host to numerous activities including monthly community meetings (with higher attendance than ever)!
"Inspiration Monday" is a new, regular KaBOOM! blog feature.
At the end of the day Sept. 20, after building brand-new playgrounds in Chicago, Gulfport, Miami, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! will have built over 1,500 playspaces across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
The 1,500 playgrounds KaBOOM! has built, along with our generous funding partners and amazing community partners, serve more than 750,000 children each year!
We can’t wait to build 1,500 more!
By Mark C. White
Can the KaBOOM! community-build model be used around the globe to bring play opportunities to all children? A small group of Playmakers and I put the theory to the test in Poland.
Through the gracious generosity of KOMPAN, BigToys and extensive fundraising, we were able to not only complete one playground project, but two: one at a rural Polish orphanage (Dom Dziecka) and another at an elementary school in the city of Poznan. Dr. Melinda Bossenmeyer of Peaceful Playgrounds donated a complete set of recess hard surface play area stencils and a paint-striping machine, and I bought all the tools to bring with us with a $500 Home Depot gift card awarded to me last fall by KaBOOM!.
Day one. Upon arrival at Dom Dziecka "Droga" located in the small village of Goscieszyn Poland, we found two crates from KOMPAN delivered the previous week. After unloading and storing our luggage, we went immediately to work.
Day two. The first full day of the build went very quickly. The team divided informally into three separate groups to assemble the three pieces of equipment. The team dug all the holes except for those for the spring-loaded seesaw. We wanted to give the kids the opportunity to dig the holes and mix in the concrete for this piece of equipment; therefore ensuring ownership as well as a memorable experience.
Day three. The safety surfacing material was delivered. The kids were starting to arrive back from school, so we had an added resource of labor to move the safety surfacing and filled both "safe use zone" areas.
Day four. We headed for our next build site: King David School. The school rents a portion of a public middle school. The objective of this build was to promote trust and cooperation amongst the administration, the surrounding "block housing" neighborhood and the parents of the students who attend King David School. My Polish counterpart, Przemek, had every detail of the build process planned out on a spreadsheet for each day of the project. We had parent volunteers both days to help complete the project. It was great to see Poles and Americans working side by side. No language translation was necessary. The smiles and teamwork said it all! We were there for a common purpose….to build a playground for a school that had none.
Day five. The next morning we had an assembly with the children and staff of the school: the official celebration and grand opening of the new playground. The children presented us with a booklet they had made with playground artwork, including many thank you's. I presented KaBOOM! "I Am Play" Playmaker t-shirts to the principal and Przemek, to great cheers and applause from the children and staff.
Mark C. White, founder of Playgrounds of Peace, is the environmental/risk and safety manager for the Lee's Summit R-7 School District. He's been a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (NPSI) for eight years, is S.A.F.E. certified, and has served as a National Advisory Board member for the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS).