By Mayor Shirley Franklin
Appearing in the March 24th edition of Nation Cities Weekly
Published by the National League of Cities
In 2007, Atlanta was named an inaugural Playful City USA community by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit that empowers communities to build playgrounds. It wasn't just because we worked hard on trails that link our parks and communities; it wasn't just because we had thousands of great places for kids to play — it was also because of the efforts of the many Atlantans devoted to making our city the best city in which to raise children.
Our great city will always step up when it comes to creating a better life for our children. The tangible evidence of this spurred Cynthia Gentry, founder and chairperson of the Atlanta Taskforce on Play (ATOP). This public/private partnership applied to KaBOOM! for Playful City USA recognition and went on to receive a $25,000 grant to help train community leaders on how to build playgrounds so that there will be a playground near every child in Atlanta by the end of 2010. With hundreds of community leaders like Cynthia out there, all of Atlanta's children will be healthier, happier and smarter because they have great places to play.
When the people of Atlanta elected me to be their mayor in 2001, I knew I had my work cut out for me. Atlanta was facing a multitude of problems. With a neglected infrastructure, struggling schools, and communities failing to address basic quality of life issues, I knew I needed to unite Atlantans to work together for big positive changes in order to establish the city as a beacon of progress, hope and opportunity. Experience has taught me that a government can't do this on its own. I knew we needed to find people and empower them to make a difference.
Every community has a next-door neighbor like Cynthia who is willing to step up. Find yours. Everyone has the power to give back and make their community better. Get started! Every community has people who can organize projects and volunteer their time. Get yours moving. Create your own task force on play to work with your City and your Parks Department and do what you can to become a Playful City USA.
Details: Atlanta was selected as one of 31 Playful City USA communities in the inaugural year of the national recognition program administered by the KaBOOM! National Campaign for Play. KaBOOM! is a national non-profit that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.
Shirley Franklin is mayor of Atlanta.
By Adam Arata and Caleb Marshall
How amazing is this? On March 19 and 29, over 3,000 volunteers will donate their time to build nine playgrounds and one skatepark in 10 communities across California in honor of labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez! All this is being made possible through the participation and leadership of each community, and through the generous contribution of CaliforniaVolunteers.
Planning for the playspaces began in January, when children and teens from each community met with organizers from KaBOOM! and CaliforniaVolunteers to draw their "dream" playgrounds or skatepark. The drawings were used to create the final designs.
At the Rainbow Recreation Center in Oakland, Calif., for example, youth ranging in age from eight to 18 and representing BMX bikers, skateboarders, and in-line skaters collaborated on a skatepark design to convert an unused tennis court into a much-needed free-skate zone. Already well-accustomed to street skating, the youth opted for a halfpipe as the central feature to their new park.
Often viewed as a rebel himself, Chavez would have definitely identified with the skating community today — who are still denigrated in society despite the movement of their sports into the mainstream. As Anthony Chavez, grandson of Cesar Chavez, told one of the KaBOOM! project managers last year, Chavez would've said, "Skate on!"
By Julio Salcedo
Site Director, Lytle Creek Park, San Bernadino, Calif.
Hello and a good day to everyone from Lytle Creek Community Center in the city of San Bernardino, Calif. It has been a pleasure and an honor to expose our youth to the KaBOOM! service learning curriculum focusing on the values of Cesar Chavez. Our center decided that pairing up our teens with our younger kids would make the experience much more interactive and fun for both age groups, and the experiment has worked!
In our first session, we asked the group what they thought service learning means. The children learned that service learning involves caring about the needs of the community and changing our behavior to better the places where we live.
The following sessions included:
We always knew, and it becomes more obvious by the day, that the KaBOOM! playground is more than a playground. It has sparked excitement, community pride and a desire to serve. Thank you, and we are anxiously waiting for our Build Day on Saturday, Mar. 29.
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.
Weakness in Economy Isn't Hurting Charities
New York Times, March 14, 2008
Despite the economic downturn and fears of recession, major charities say their fund-raising has not fallen off.
"We're doing fine," said Christina Walker, director of development at the Cleveland Orchestra. "We haven't seen any effect yet."
In fact, some 64 percent of the organizations that have responded so far to the Association of Fundraising Professionals' annual survey on fund-raising have reported bringing in more money in 2007 than the year before.
"Our surveys tell us fund-raising has been holding steady," said Paulette V. Maehara, the association's president and chief executive, who emphasized that the findings for 2007 were preliminary and that in any case the environment could change over the course of 2008.
Darell Hammond, chief executive of KaBOOM!, a nonprofit group that builds and maintains playgrounds, said he and his senior management team were keeping a close eye on revenue to see what effect, if any, the organization would feel from economic weakness. The 12-year-old group has long been a favorite of corporate donors, and declines in corporate donations tend to be steeper during hard times than do reductions in gifts from other sources.
But Mr. Hammond said corporate support had so far remained strong, fortunately. Last year the organization embarked on an effort to diversify its financing sources, reaching out to foundations and individuals. Many foundations, he said, have since told the organization that they are not making any new commitments, and the first foray by KaBOOM! into direct mail, last fall, attracted just $50,000, a quarter of what it had expected.
"Whether that was due to the economy or just a measure of how tired people are of direct mail," Mr. Hammond said, "I don't know."
FOR RELEASE MARCH 13, 2008 6:00 A.M. PDST
First project kicks off today as children in San Antonio community gather to design their dream playground
March 13, 2008 – SEATTLE – This year, thousands of children across the country will get great new, safe places to play thanks to a new partnership announced today between WaMu, the nation's leading consumer and small business bank, and KaBOOM!, a national non-profit organization that empowers communities to build playgrounds. This year-long partnership will bring together almost 2,000 corporate and community volunteers to build child-designed playgrounds in Atlanta, Chatsworth, Calif., Chicago, Jacksonville, Fla., Los Angeles, New York City, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle and one more city to be announced at a later date.
"It's a playful urban version of an old-fashioned barn raising," said Reza Aghamirzadeh, senior vice president of community and external affairs at WaMu. "This partnership is a perfect fit for our employees' hands-on approach to helping create strong communities. Working side by side with our neighbors to protect open spaces and build safe play places, we‘re helping to boost community pride, improve children's health, and strengthen the ties that help neighbors work better together toward shared goals."
This playground-building partnership with KaBOOM! is just one of the many ways WaMu employees are making an impact on their communities. WaMu provides 12 hours of paid time off per quarter for full-time employees to serve their communities. Last year, WaMu employees around the country volunteered 165,350 hours in support of affordable housing, financial education and community strength.
KaBOOM!, a Washington D.C. based non-profit, has helped build more than 1,300 playgrounds, skateparks, ice rinks and sports fields across North America since its inception in 1995 via its innovative community-build model.
"We're ecstatic about this partnership and excited to be working with such a great organization like Washington Mutual," KaBOOM! CEO & Co-Founder Darell Hammond said. "WaMu has consistently demonstrated its commitment to helping communities across the country. We're looking forward to working together in our efforts improve the lives of children as well as to begin inspiring communities everywhere to take positive action on behalf of children."
The playgrounds will be designed based on drawings submitted by children at Design Day events held prior to each of the builds. A locally formed playground planning committee will work closely with the two organizations to prepare for the builds, which will take place in just one day through the efforts of WaMu employees, KaBOOM! and volunteers from the local communities.
The partnership kicks off today with a Design Day in San Antonio when the children and members of the Alamo Area Mutual Housing Association and Castle Ridge Apartments will gather to design their dream playground which WaMu and KaBOOM! volunteers and community members will build together on May 17.
About Washington Mutual, Inc.
Washington Mutual, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is one of the nation's leading consumer and small business banks. At Dec. 31, 2007, Washington Mutual, Inc. and its subsidiaries had assets of $327.91 billion. The company has a history dating back to 1889 and its subsidiary banks currently operate approximately 2,500 consumer and small business banking stores throughout the nation. The company's press releases are available at http://newsroom.wamu.com .
KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since 1995, KaBOOM! has used its innovative community-build model to bring together business and community interests to construct more than 1,300 new playgrounds, skateparks, sports fields and ice rinks across North America. KaBOOM! also offers a variety of resources, including an online community, regional and national trainings, grants, publications and the KaBOOM! National Campaign for Play, which includes Playful City USA and the Playmaker Network – a national network of individual advocates for play. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! also has offices in Chicago, Atlanta and San Mateo, CA. For more information, visit http://www.kaboom.org.
Atlanta, East Cleveland, Longview (Wash.) are awarded $25,000 grants to fund play-related projects
WASHINGTON, D.C. – KaBOOM!, the leading national non-profit promoting play as essential to the healthy development of all children, announced the grant recipients from the nation's founding class of Playful City USA communities on Tuesday.
Via a fun-filled online awards show that aired at 1 p.m. (EST) – the Playful City USA Grant Awards – KaBOOM! announced the communities receiving a total of $100,000 in grants. Atlanta, East Cleveland and Longview (Wash.) each received "Golden Kazoos" and a $25,000 grant that will be used to fund a play-related project in their communities.
In addition, Ankeny (Iowa), Norfolk (Va.), San Francisco, Shirley (Mass.) and Yuma (Ariz.) claimed "Honorary Mention Golden Kazoos" and $5,000 grants that will be used toward each of the communities' 2008 Play Day.
Twenty-one of the nation's founding Playful City USA communities were vying for $100,000 in grants (three $25,000, five $5,000) and each enthusiastically rallied its citizens to support the cause for play as part of the KaBOOM! Playful City USA national recognition program. Every community created fun-filled videos as part of the application process and the videos were collectively viewed more than 150,000 times.
"We're extremely excited to announce the communities that are receiving grants," KaBOOM! CEO and co-founder Darell Hammond said. "I can't begin to describe the amount of hard work that all of our founding Playful City USA communities have shown us – not only to be named a Playful City USA, but also to apply for the grants. It was a challenging process, but it's quite encouraging because we know there are communities across the country that are willing to take action on behalf of play."
The awards were named "The Golden Kazoos" as the kazoo is the official musical instrument at KaBOOM! because children play it better than adults.
On Oct. 30, KaBOOM! announced the 31 founding Playful City USA communities in America after each fulfilled five commitments laid out in the program: creating a local play board, task force, or commission; designing an annual action plan for play; conducting a playspace audit; outlining the financial investment in play for the current fiscal year; and proclaiming and celebrating an annual "play day."
The cities were officially recognized as the nation's founding Playful City USA communities in front of representatives from across the country during the National League of Cities conference in New Orleans, La., Nov. 17-19.
Following the announcement, the communities were given the option of applying for grants by submitting a play-themed, fun-filled video and a detailed plan for how the grant award would be used.
The videos were viewed more than 150,000 times by individuals across the country who voted for their favorite videos from Nov. 30-Dec. 21. A judging panel then determined the eventual winners with strong consideration given to communities that successfully rallied their citizens to vote.
The KaBOOM! Playful City USA Grant Awards Show and the videos submitted by the communities can still be viewed at www.playfulcityusa.org/grant.
2007 Playful City USA Grant Awards Show List of Awards
Golden Kazoos ($25,000 grant)
East Cleveland, Ohio
Honorary Mention Golden Kazoos ($5,000 grant)
San Francisco, Calif.
Special Mention Golden Kazoos
Best Dramatic Performance By a Child: Canton, Ga.
Best Music: Cedar City, Utah
Best Orchestra: Dothan, Ala.
Best Belly Dancing: El Paso, Texas
Best Movie Reel: Lake Charles, La.
Best Collective Footwork: Lake Worth, Fla.
Best Swinging: New Lenox, Ill.
Best Performance By a Mayor: New Roads, La.
Best Comedic Performance: Phoenix, Ariz.
Best Stunt: Portsmouth, Ohio
Best Chorus: Spartanburg, S.C.
Best Hook: Tucson, Ariz.
Best Tumbling: Wapello, Iowa
2007 KaBOOM! Playful City USA communities
*Cedar City, Utah
*East Cleveland, Ohio
*El Paso, Texas
*Lake Charles, La.
*Lake Worth, Fla.
Mountain Grove, Mo.
*New Lenox, Ill.
*New Roads, La.
*San Francisco, Calif.
San Jose, Calif.
* Applied for grant
KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since 1995, KaBOOM! has used its innovative community-build model to bring together business and community interests to construct more than 1,300 new playgrounds, skateparks, sports fields and ice rinks across North America. KaBOOM! also offers a variety of resources, including an online community, regional and national trainings, grants, publications and the KaBOOM! National Campaign for Play, which includes Playful City USA and the Playmaker Network – a national network of individual advocates for play. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! also has offices in Chicago, Atlanta and San Mateo, CA.
Fortune Magazine has a section on CNN's Money web site and has published a great article about what KaBOOM! is trying to do. Reporter Jennifer Reingold attended a playground build in North Philadelphia and really did a nice description of the day
Beltsville Girl's Gift to 'Katrina Kids'
Raising Money for Others, One Paper Fan at a Time
By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 20, 2007
Seven-year-old Kamilah Bryant just wanted to help children devastated by Hurricane Katrina get their stuff back.
Last year, the Beltsville girl sat down with some colorful paper, crayons and markers and began making hundreds of accordion-style fans. Over the next several months, she sold them for $1 each at church and in the lobby of the Forestville apartment complex where her great-grandmother lived.
Kamilah Bryant, 7, decided last year that she would raise money for children affected by Hurricane Katrina by creating and selling fans.
Her ingenuity resulted in a $1,000 donation to a Washington-based nonprofit group called KaBoom, which used the money in October to purchase a new slide for a playground that the group built to bring smiles back to the faces of children in a New Orleans neighborhood.
NEW ORLEANS, LA -- New Orleans is on the road to recovery from Hurricane Katrina, but there is still a lot of work to do. I know this, because I live here. Houses weren't the only parts of neighborhoods destroyed by floodwaters—we lost our places to play.
To remedy that situation, NBA (National Basketball Association) Cares and the New Orleans Hornets have teamed up with an organization called KaBOOM! to build new playgrounds throughout the city.
On December 8, volunteers from New Orleans and around the U.S. joined members of NBA Cares and the Hornets to help build a playground in an empty lot in the Broadmoor neighborhood. The work goes fast—the playground was built in just eight hours.
(The writer of this article is 11-year-old Abigayle Lista who is interested in science, wants to become a marine biologist, and likes to play with her dogs and surf the web in her spare time.)
Read more of her article here.