We hear many stories about the ripple effects of a single playground. After all, a playground not only provides children with a place to play, it provides the community with a place to gather. It also serves as a lasting, tangible reminder of the extraordinary things a group of ordinary people can accomplish when they unite around a cause.
In 2010, we engaged 42,655 community volunteers, who contributed 308,998 hours to build 181 playgrounds. These playgrounds have served a combined total of 148,311 children this past year alone. Yet like the concentric circles that spread around a stone thrown in water, the impact spreads much wider. Here are some of our favorite “ripples,” as we call them, from 2010:
Perris, Calif.: Project co-chair Cesar Navarrete said, "We really proved a lot of the nay-sayers wrong. They didn't think that we could pull the community together for a project like this, especially with how diverse we are." Now that the playground is built, it’s become a central hub of the community. Cesar says, "It's not only our after-school program. You have families coming out on the weekend, and literally spending all day here playing with their kids." In addition to the playground, local teenagers created a mural on a storage container next to the site, and have also taken ownership of their new community garden (being built at right), growing tomatoes, corn, peppers, and more.
Braddock, Pa.: All of our playground projects are kicked off by a Design Day, during which local children draw their dream playgrounds so we can incorporate elements into the final playground design. A 13-year-old who was on site to watch her new playground be built said excitedly at the end of the day, "That is EXACTLY what I designed!"
Rockford, Ill.: A child playing on the new playground who noticed other children littering made sure to tell them that the trash belonged in the trash cans, not on the playground. The child was clearly taking ownership of the playground by keeping it clean.
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Bristol, Tenn.: After seeing so many volunteers come out to build the playground (pictured left), the City Commissioner realized that Anderson Park, where the playground is located, has been somewhat neglected by the city. He has promised to increase funds and support for upkeep and improvements to Anderson Park. Now that the playground is built, no one in the community can remember a time where there were so many people in the park.
New Orleans, La.: Neighbors had doubts throughout the entire planning process. No one was completely convinced that this project would succeed and they were amazed to watch it come together. One had an "A-ha!” moment, realizing the power of the playground to bring diverse sectors of the community together. She revisited the park a few days after the playground was built and saw two older gentleman sitting on a picnic table enjoying some cool drinks while youth were playing basketball nearby.
Ft. Worth, Tex.: Neighbors of West Handley Elementary School have sent emails saying that they see kids playing on the equipment at night and on the weekends—a good thing! Classes that were previously not going outside for recess are now given time during the day to play. There are even people asking if they can help bring additional play elements to the space, like volleyball nets. The students are also taking ownership of the playground and reporting maintenance issues to teachers as soon as they find them.
Roxbury, Mass.: A teenager who helped build a playground at Yawkey Club said, "In 20 years when I have kids, I'm gonna tell them, 'Daddy built that playground!' " After coming together for the playground build, staff at Yawkey have been inspired to take on a new project, saying, "We figured if we can build a playground, we can sure build a music clubhouse!"
Charlotte, N.C.: Children in the neighborhood used to play alone in abandoned houses because they had nowhere else to play. Now they're out in the open on a safe playground (at right), with their parents nearby. The community reports that the neighborhood has truly been transformed.
Houston, Tex.: One child who attended the playground build at Kenneth D. Black Elementary has special needs and doesn't speak much. As he was standing behind the chain-link fence watching as the playground go up, he put his hands over his heart. Making a heart-beating motion, he chanted, "KaBOOM! , KaBOOM!" with each beat.
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