As we look back on the KaBOOM! 15th birthday year, it is hard not to feel pride in all that we – the broader KaBOOM! community – have accomplished toward realizing our vision of a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.
Together we have built 2,072 playgrounds empowering communities across North America to come together for the greater good. We have taken all of our knowledge and made it available – for free – so people can self-organize and build playgrounds at a much faster pace than we can alone, while also building local skills, capacity and social capitol.
We have mapped 89,145 playgrounds in our effort to create a nationwide Map of Play, which will in turn illuminate Play Deserts, allowing us to use our resources even more strategically to serve those communities most in need. To that end, we created a mobile app, Playgrounds!, to make it easier for you to add to our Map of Play and find great places to play in your neighborhood.
We recognized 151 Playful City USA honorees across the country for their efforts to make their cities more playful. And, with your support, my book, KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, was #4 on the NY Times Bestseller list, enrolling more communities, mayors, teachers and parents in the movement to save play.
With so much to celebrate, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement. But we must not forget that KaBOOM! was founded out of a tragedy – the lost lives of Iyesha and Clendon, who suffocated to death while playing in an abandoned car because they didn’t have a safe place to play. That story, as reported in the Washington Post, inspired me to bring people together and do something: build a playground.
This year, we turned another tragedy into hope in Phil Campbell, Ala., whose town was nearly destroyed by the largest tornado in Alabama history. Twenty-six people were killed including two students and a teacher from Phil Campbell Elementary School. Along with homes and businesses, their only playground was shredded by winds reaching over 210 MPH. Residents from Phil Campbell are still struggling to put their lives back together, but on December 17th they got a new playground, thanks to support from Disney, and two Imagination Playground™ in a Box™ sets, thanks to the generosity of donors from across the country.
Our mission to help communities build playgrounds is also driven by the fact that outdoor play is critical to the health and well-being of our children, yet today's kids have fewer opportunities and less time to play than any previous generation.
As we look ahead to the next 15 years, we must recommit to and act on behalf of Iesha and Clendon and all of the children in our lives to ensure that they have a great place to play and that play is prioritized at home and in school. Whether that means organizing a playground build in your neighborhood, joining our online community on Facebook or donating to our broader efforts, make a resolution to help advance the cause of play.
Oh, and don’t forget to have some fun along the way!
Founder and CEO, KaBOOM!
"Eagle Scout is the highest rank in the Boy Scouts. Most guys spend a few months, maybe even 6 months, working on a cap stone service project in their community. That’s great, but I wanted to do something more. I was born in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. My parents, Dwight & Jennifer, adopted me when I was just a year old. Thinking about my Eagle Scout project I read some of the journals my parents kept when they were in the process of adopting me and I was struck by the description of the playground at the hospital I was born in – it was just a small rusted swing with a rotten seat and a sand pit filled with mud. That just wasn’t right – and I was going to fix it.
It took two and half years of planning and over 700 hours of work, but on August 12th, my 16th birthday, I helped build a brand new playground at that hospital. There were so many challenges along the way, language and distance among, them that I was so glad to have found the KaBOOM! online playground project planner. The easy step-by-step process led me through what I would need to do to build this playground, and since I’d never done anything like that before they quickly became my go-to resource."
– Alex Griffith, Forest Hill, MD
Alex overcame all the hurdles associated with building a new playground across an ocean and in a different language, and succeeded in building an amazing new playground for hundreds of kids.
Play it forward with a donation today to support playground builders like Alex, and all the ones to come.