The 100th Operation Playground project got off to a great start with a Design Day on Apr. 28 in Bay St. Louis, Miss. More than 25 playground experts ages three to 16 eagerly put crayon to paper to share their ideas for the new playground to be built at Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial Park. The children's drawings, along with input from parents and other community members, will be used to create the final playground design.
Following the children's portion, more than 30 adults from the community met to learn about the KaBOOM! planning process and sign up for committees responsible for construction, food, safety, youth involvement, and volunteer recruitment. The enthusiastic group also established the planning committee's weekly meeting time and created their own ‘wish list' of items for the new playground to be constructed on June 14.
Partners for this special build are the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Fannie Mae, the Foundation for the Mid South, the Hancock Housing Resource Center and the City of Bay St. Louis.
The Gulf Coast Community Foundation is the administrator of the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, which was established by Governor Barbour days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. This project is one of 17 that will be completed in the lower six counties this year using funds from the Hurricane Recovery Fund. Fannie Mae and the Foundation for the Mid South are also providing matching funds for each project. The Hancock Housing Resource Center (HRRC) is an initiative of the Hancock Community Development Foundation. The main role of the HHRC is to find ways to address housing needs in Hancock County.
"A major part of developing housing is community participation," said Sherry-Lea Bloodworth, Director of the Hancock Housing Resource Center. "What better way to build close community ties than through a KaBOOM! playground build? I can't think of a better way to stimulate community participation and reinvigorate weary residents as we continue to rebuild. After all, the KaBOOM! process not only builds playgrounds, it brings communities together. We are so thrilled to be partners for the KaBOOM! 100th playground."
The first Operation Playground project took place on December 17, 2005 at Carol Vegas Park in Bay St. Louis. 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. Since then, KaBOOM! and our partners have built 95 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 build a sense of community lost in the storms.
While KaBOOM! 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.