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.”
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!
What's a Play Day? Well, it's exactly what the name implies. A Play Day helps build awareness for the importance of play, strengthen your community, and bring old-fashioned fun to your neighborhood.
There's still time to hold a Play Day this fall, and we offer free tools and resources to get you started. Meanwhile, get inspired by these photos from Play Days around the country:
Fontana, Ariz. "organized several picnic style games and activities including: hula till you drop, potato sack races, cha cha slide dance contest, and the Rock Paper Scissors Championship of Fontana!!"
Playful City USA Mount Holly, N.C. held a Play Day to celebrate "the official opening and dedication to the new playground at Woodlawn and improved amenities, games, activities, refreshments and prizes."
Activities at Playful City USA Coventry, Conn. "included a climbing wall, moon bounce, inflatable basketball challenge, a costume swap, face painting, pumpkin carving, pony rides... hoop dancing, sports, a giant chess set... and a costume parade and contest!"
Playful City USA Lyerly, Ga. "hosted two Play Days... and both were huge successes! On Thursday, all of the special education students in our county joined at our park for the first Play Day. This was the first time ever that all those kids had the chance to be all together at the same time and place. They also got to test our brand new Jennswing, which allowed several kids who normally aren't able to participate the chance to swing alongside their peers!"
Ready to organize your own Play Day? Get started here.
Four months ago, the kids at Phil Campbell Elementary School in northern Alabama had their lives turned upside down—literally. It was on a Wednesday, at 10:45 a.m., that the first storm warnings sounded. The school was quickly evacuated before the mid-afternoon tornadoes hit, but one of its teachers and two of its students would never return.
They were three of the 28 people who died in this tight-knit, rural community of 1,000. The tornadoes also took away the school’s playground, which was the only playground in town. After such a tragedy, a playground was exactly what these children needed to heal and recover.
Like most folks in Phil Campbell, lifelong resident Kim Sherrill grew up climbing on monkey bars, sliding, swinging and creating imaginary worlds with her friends. Kim understands the healing power of play, and she is determined to do whatever she can to replace that playground. That’s why she reached out to us.
Kim says, "They need a place to run and play and be kids again, away from the rubble and pain. Some of these children lost family members—one even lost his leg. We need a playground that is safe and fun; for a child, play is therapeutic and necessary."
Help us fill the empty field at Phil Campbell Elementary School with playing children by chipping in for Imagination Playground™ blocks.
We hope to give the kids in Phil Campbell an Imagination Playground™TM, a revolutionary new play system that encourages unstructured, creative play. Engaging a child’s body and mind simultaneously, Imagination Playground™ consists of large blue foam blocks, similar to life-size tinker toys. These blocks let children create fairy houses, rocket ships, castles, or anything else that they imagine.
Join us in giving the kids in Phil Campbell not just a place to play, but an outlet to heal and to work through their tangled emotions in a safe and comforting environment. We can’t rebuild roofs, restore livelihoods or bring back lost loved ones, but we can bring play back to the children of Phil Campbell, Alabama.
Let’s get started! Make your contribution today.