On March 8, New Orleans resident Linda Prout participated in her 16th Operation Playground project in the city! Linda's first build was in September, 2006, at the International School and she has been a dedicated volunteer ever since. A teacher for 25 years, Linda says she appreciates the value of play and loves seeing the playgrounds where she worked filled with joyful playing children.
KaBOOM! salutes Linda Prout for her incredible dedication to our cause. Our work would not be possible without amazing volunteers like her!
What initially drew you to the cause of playgrounds in general, and to Operation Playground in particular?
Linda: Hurricane Katrina and the flooding afterward destroyed our homes, schools, libraries, and playgrounds. For months I did not see any children in my neighborhood. But along with the devastation came the opportunity to rebuild things better than they were before. Operation Playground has been a vital component of the rebirth of New Orleans and our sense of community.
What inspired you to participate in 16 builds?
Linda: At every build I have worked with unforgettable people from KaBOOM!, the local community, and volunteers from all over the country -- like the woman from Washington, D.C. who was celebrating her birthday by returning to New Orleans to build another playground with 12 of her best friends. They inspire me to keep coming back, together with the hope of improving the lives of children in New Orleans.
What's your favorite part of a Build Day, and why?
Linda: Do I have to pick just one?
I love working with children on projects that become part of the playground, such as the mosaic stepping stones, individual paintings, or murals, because they are so proud of their work.
I love lunch! Because here that means red beans and rice, gumbo, fried chicken, jambalaya...
I love the looks on children's faces at the ribbon-cutting ceremony when they first see the transformation from grass and dirt to a beautiful finished playground, because that's like a $1 million paycheck.
Why do you believe the cause of play is important?
Linda: I was a teacher for 25 years, and I always believed that the most important teaching and best learning happened on the playground. Share. Take turns. Use your words instead of your fists. Work together to get it done faster. Stretch your muscles and your imagination. Include everyone who wants to play. Problem solve. Pick up when you're finished. Have fun.
Do you have plans to participate in future builds? If so, which ones?
You bet! I'll be at Fannie Williams Elementary on May 17, and I can't wait to hear about the 100th build for Operation Playground. Hopefully, I will continue to help with playgrounds until every child has a great place to play within walking distance.