April 03, 2008

U Play! leads to accessible playground, to be built Saturday in Georgia

On Saturday, April 5, a new playground will be built in Macon, Ga. thanks to the efforts of KaBOOM!, the Junior League of Macon, the Bibb County Medical Society, NewTown Macon, lots of great donors and volunteers...and Dr. Frank B. Kelly, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon who has worked with virtually every aspect of his community's playground build. He's been involved in everything from volunteer recruitment to fundraising to construction to safety to spearheading the involvement of the Medical Society with his colleague, Dr. Seth Bush.

This is Dr. Kelly's sixth playground build with KaBOOM! He's built other playgrounds with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which has built a playground in association with their annual meetings each year since 2000. Those builds inspired him to do a build in his hometown. This unique project has an interesting history. Read on for a Q&A with Dr. Kelly, where you can learn the story that led to this build.

How did your project get started?

I attended U Play! in July 2006 and while there, by chance, met two ladies from the Junior League of Macon (Wendy Boston and Donna Jennings). Unbeknownst to me, the Junior League had also been considering a playground project and had been in preliminary discussions with NewTown Macon about building it at the newly designed Water Works Park. So...we started talking and decided it would make much more sense for us to combine forces and bring together the talents, capabilities, contacts, and energies of each group rather than embark upon separate projects. This proved to be a very wise decision; had we not joined forces, I cannot imagine that we would be on the cusp of building such a wonderful facility.

When we got back home we had several organizational meetings between the Medical Society and the representatives from the Junior League, we decided on our budget, we identified key personnel to help and also started working to identify individuals, businesses, and foundations within our community which we thought would be supportive of our project. A logo for our playground was designed, and we were off and running.

Why is this new playspace particularly important to Macon?
This playground will not only be the largest playground in our community, but it will be centrally located and easily accessible from all areas. In addition, it will be a central feature of a larger park...a park which will offer numerous outdoor activities, including bike trails, hiking trails, fishing, and access to water sports, such as canoeing on the Ocmulgee River – the Water Works Park will include two miles of river frontage – an incredibly beautiful piece of property.

Above all, the playspace is important because it will be an accessible playground – affording all the children of our community, even those with different abilities, an opportunity to experience the joys and benefits of play and physical activity. Before now, children with disabilities have had to go as far away as Atlanta (an hour and a half drive) to enjoy the experience of being with their friends on a playground. I think this playground will be a tremendous service to our community, and I think it is one of the very best things to happen to Macon in my lifetime.

What inspires you to continue building playgrounds?
Playground builds are such a lasting tribute to the community and afford our children the opportunities to enjoy the many benefits of play and physical activity. Being a medical doctor, I am well aware of the growing epidemic of childhood and juvenile obesity and also well aware that many of our children do not participate in physical activity as much as did those of other generations. Why not provide them with this opportunity?

And the special part about our project is the fact that we have gone to great efforts to make our playground accessible, so it can be enjoyed by all children. We will have a rubberized surface that is easily negotiated by wheelchairs. We will have wheelchair useable ramps to access the equipment. We will have special swings and other equipment that kids with disabilities might use.

We will probably have 250-300 participants on our Build Day and I look forward to seeing the energy that will be exhibited on that day!

community, community projects