KaBOOM! News • page 112

Playful City USA: El Paso

From the March 2008 issue of Texas Town & City magazine
Reprinted with permission

Play among children is on the decline throughout the United States. Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in the last 20 years. Increasingly, children lack a safe and enjoyable playground within walking distance in their neighborhood.

In an effort to improve the state of play, the national non-profit organization KaBOOM! launched its Playful City USA initiative in 2007 as part of its National Campaign for Play. In October, KaBOOM! announced the 31 founding Playful City USA communities. Cities like Atlanta and San Francisco made the cut. But so did communities like Wapello, Iowa (population 2,200) and Shirley, Mass. (population 7,600).

The lone representative from the Lone Star State was El Paso.

And the city is extremely proud.

"After this designation, and being the only city in Texas that was honored, El Pasoans are very proud and joyful that the city has received such recognition and that this will help lead the way on other future promotional and tourism related opportunities," El Paso Recreation Services Manager Joe Rodriguez said.

To Rodriguez, who was instrumental in the application process, it was common sense that El Paso should apply to be recognized for the city's efforts. El Paso had previously made a commitment to providing a substantial amount of open space to its residents and the Playful City USA program matched the city's ideals.

"Here in El Paso, we have always known that we are a playful city due to our wonderful year-round sunny weather and our friendly and easy-going citizens," Rodriguez said. "We have over 200 parks, 24 recreation centers and 14 swimming pools and when these facilities are open they are used to their fullest potential."

Read the whole article (pdf)

Year-Round, All-Ages Play Highlights Yuma's 'Playful City USA' Status

By Larry Nelson
Mayor, City of Yuma, Ariz.

U.S. Mayor Magazine - Apr. 7, 2008
Reprinted with permission

Yuma was recognized nationally in 2008 as a top place for children to play when it was named one of the 31 founding members of the Playful City USA initiative, sponsored by KaBOOM! But the impact is felt "from womb to tomb" and 365 days a year.

Yuma's participation in KaBOOM's Playful City USA initiative, which is a national recognition program that honors cities and towns across the nation for "creating an agenda for play," not only placed the city in elite company across the nation, but provided many other benefits as well. Those include improvements in planning and public participation and increasing awareness for Parks and Recreation and its role in how citizens play.

But perhaps most important is that this campaign allowed Yuma residents—and the world—to learn that the "we" in "We Play the Yuma Way" is everybody—from the very young to the very old. And the "way" is every day—365 days a year.

Yuma's a ‘Playful City' for everybody, all year round. Playing in Yuma starts at a very young age—virtually all ages can play in Yuma, from young kids to senior citizens: from the ‘tot lot' at our Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative Playground and our recreation programs for toddlers all the way up to the seniors who run and walk on our paths and in our 5K/10K's.

Our involvement in activities like softball, Over the Line, volleyball and soccer, plus all the people that are running, walking and biking on our paths, includes participants of all ages—and they do it here, outside, 12 months out of the year, where you're lucky to get six good months in some places back east.

The creation of the Play task force allowed the City to create greater planning outcomes for future resources and the promotion of play in our community. Those community members, including myself, were key in creating the goals for Yuma's future play initiatives. The City of Yuma Parks and Recreation Department is well on its way to realizing many of the goals put forth in the plan: business leader survey, monthly play dates, and increased emphasis on safety and shade structures to be installed with future playgrounds.

In February of 2007, the City of Yuma, with the help of 8,000 volunteers, built a creative playground based from the ideas of 5,000 Yuma children. This 17,000-square-foot playground is the first of its kind in Arizona and serves as the flagship play space in our community. The Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative Playground has been a model for public involvement and support for our Parks and Recreation Department. With the Playful City USA initiative we have been able to sustain public awareness and maintain momentum with our play and youth programs.

The spirit of that volunteer effort came alive again in the effort to promote Yuma's Playful City USA video contest entry, "We Play the Yuma Way." Competing news media, enthusiastic members of the public and other government agencies all contributed to the city's effort to get out the word and then get out the vote, and Yuma's video, with the second-highest vote tally, fared well considering the competition included major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, San Francisco and East Cleveland.

The grant opportunities that have come as a result of the Playful City USA initiative have been very positive. Parks and Recreation learned a great deal about getting out the vote and how to achieve critical mass in the community about specific knowledge on a project. The department utilized many different methods to encourage the community to vote for our video grant application (see attached list). The City received $5,000 to promote its next Come out and Play Day on September 20, 2008. Yuma has also applied for a shade grant from the American Academy of Dermatology for our Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative Playground.

The ongoing result is a Parks and Recreation team and community that are committed to promoting play, providing programs for youth, and renewed interest from the media that will serve to make a more inclusive community when it comes to play for all ages.

$25 Million Campaign to Build or Refurbish 1000 Playspaces Reaches Milestone in April

Washington, D.C., April 9, 2008 - KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization whose vision is a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America, announces that The Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement retailer, is its first partner to build or refurbish 1,000 playspaces. The Home Depot and KaBOOM! first committed to building 1,000 playspaces together in 2005.

"The Home Depot's unprecedented participation in this initiative will enhance the physical, social and emotional well-being of children all over North America," said Darell Hammond, CEO and Co-Founder, KaBOOM! "as we reach our 1,000th playspace build on April 10, 2008, I am truly astounded by the impact this partnership has made on communities across the nation."

The 1,000th build will take place in Victory Park, in the City of Marietta, GA. The playground, built in partnership with the City of Marietta Parks & Recreation and the Marietta Kiwanis, will provide a safe, fun environment for children from the community and three nearby schools.

As the founding partner of KaBOOM! since 1995, The Home Depot provides financial support, materials and hundreds of volunteers for play space projects across North America.

Key facts:

  • 1,000 playgrounds built or refurbished in 1,000 days
  • $25 million invested by The Home Depot
  • 954,435 volunteer hours donated by Home Depot associates
  • 99,555 Team Depot volunteers participated
  • 619,300 children served

Each playground built through this campaign was funded by a $47,200 grant by The Home Depot and a $10,000 contribution from the community partner receiving the playground. Other playspace programs included in this program include community challenge grants, field refurbishments, and skateparks. Once a community partner has been selected, the typical planning period leading up to Build Day is eight to 10 weeks. The project is led by the KaBOOM! project manager and build captains from The Home Depot and the community partner. On Build Day, approximately 150 volunteers from The Home Depot and 100 community volunteers join together to construct a new playground.

About The Home Depot
As the world's largest home improvement retailer, The Home Depot embraces its role as a leader in the community and celebrates its long-standing commitment to volunteerism. The Home Depot's associate volunteer program, Team Depot, was formalized in 1992 as a way to support the communities where the associates live and work. Through The Home Depot Foundation, Team Depot and ongoing partnerships with nonprofit groups, The Home Depot donates millions of hours, tools and supplies each year to community service projects.

About KaBOOM!
KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Celebrating twelve years of service in 2008, KaBOOM! rallies communities to achieve better public policy, funding and public awareness for increased play opportunities nationwide; provide resources, including trainings, challenge grants, and publications for communities that wish to plan a new play space on their own; and bring together children, business and community interests for a select number of community play space builds each year. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! also has offices in Chicago, Atlanta and San Mateo. For more information, visit www.kaboom.org.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of his ongoing efforts to provide "A Better Tomorrow" for children, NBA All-Star Antawn Jamison and national non-profit KaBOOM! announced a new partnership to encourage and promote play among children across the country.

KaBOOM!, an organization that empowers communities to build playgrounds, will team with Jamison to sponsor a playground build in his hometown of Shreveport in September of 2008 with the potential to build playgrounds in other areas in the future. Additionally, Jamison will serve as a KaBOOM! All-Star Playmaker – an extension of the Playmaker Network consisting of national leaders and celebrities who take action for play on behalf of KaBOOM!, while promoting the importance of play.

Jamison, whose "A Better Tomorrow" campaign has helped countless individuals across the country via scholarships, clothing and food donations and financial contributions, participated alongside hundreds of volunteers to build a KaBOOM! playground in just one day in New Orleans on Feb. 15 at the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood and Family Learning Center in conjunction with the 2008 NBA All-Star Game. Inspired by the massive community involvement and the tangible result of a playground that will serve thousands of children, Jamison contacted KaBOOM! to facilitate building a playground in his childhood home of Shreveport.

"Encouraging children to play by building playgrounds is important to me because it not only allows a kid to be a kid, but it also helps bring entire communities together," Jamison said. "Those are two of my biggest charitable goals. It seems that television and video games are making so many children grow up too quickly these days. Playing video games is fun but playing outside and interacting with other kids is where friendships are built and dreams are created."

KaBOOM!, a Washington D.C. based non-profit, has helped build nearly 1,400 playgrounds, skateparks, ice rinks and sports fields across North America since its inception in 1995 via its innovative community-build model.

"When we look for individuals to partner with, our top priority is finding people with a true passion for making a difference in the lives of children," said Darell Hammond, KaBOOM! CEO & co-founder. "Without question, Antawn has that passion and it's evident in the programs he's sponsored in the past. We're ecstatic that he's joining with us in our mission to spread the message that play is invaluable and critical to the development of children."

The playground that will eventually be built in Shreveport will be designed based on drawings submitted by children from the area at a Design Day event held prior to the build. A locally formed playground planning committee will work closely with Antawn and a local partner to prepare for the build, which will take place in just one day through the efforts of Antawn, a Shreveport-based organization, KaBOOM! and volunteers from the local community.

"Helping out with the build in New Orleans was one of my most memorable experiences during All-Star Weekend," Jamison said. "I didn't realize how much hard work goes into building a playground. It was very inspirational to see all those community members and volunteers working together to provide a place where kids can play and feel safe. There's nothing like physically helping to build a playground for kids. I'm looking forward to the next build so I can step in and get my hands dirty. I wouldn't have it any other way."

Jamison will also assist KaBOOM! in promotional efforts for WE Play! (Workshops Entirely on Play!) – free regional trainings occurring across the country that provide networking opportunities and first-hand success stories on how to bring play back into the lives of children. KaBOOM! will host its first WE Play! training in Washington, D.C. on April 10 with another to follow May 13 in Charlotte – the city where Jamison attended high school.

"The word ‘play' molded me into the person I am today," Jamison said. "Growing up in Shreveport was all about having a special place to hang out and converse with my friends. That special place was a little playground. That one little playground gave me so many chances. It helped instill my work ethic and passion for basketball and ultimately helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life."

About Antawn Jamison
In his tenth professional season out of the University of North Carolina, Antawn Jamison has served as a team captain for the Washington Wizards for the past four seasons. A two-time NBA All-Star (2005, 2008), Jamison has averaged at least 19 points per game in eight of his ten professional seasons. This season, Jamison is averaging 21.5 points and a career-high 10.2 rebounds per game, and is one of just five players in the NBA averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. He was awarded the NBA's Community Assist Award in 2003 for his incredible community service efforts in North Carolina. As a former winner of the Magic Johnson Award, presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to an NBA player who combines excellence on the court with outstanding cooperation with the media, and a two-time honoree by The Sporting News as one of the "Good Guys" in sports, Jamison is also a fixture at Washington Wizards community events.

About KaBOOM!
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 nearly 1,400 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, Calif.

April 03, 2008 KaBOOM!

By the numbers: Cesar Chavez Builds

Number of volunteers who came together in nine communities across the beautiful state of California to complete Prep Day 1 for the March 29 builds.

Number of holes that were dug for playground equipment, new fencing, community gardens and other play enhancement projects (77 holes were dug by hand) for the March 29 builds.

Pounds (that's 136 tons!) of concrete that were delivered to the nine sites across the state for the March 29 builds.

Cubic yards of Engineered Wood Fiber that were delivered to eight sites for the March 29 builds. (That's 23 semi trailers of mulch!)

Number of "Core Values Signs" that were installed at nine sites on March 29.

Number of murals painted, using 198 quarts and 64 gallons of paint between nine sites on March 29.

Number of complete playgrounds that were created (plus one skatepark, which makes eight), which include:

  • 1 half pipe
  • 16 bridges
  • 34 slides
  • 7 crawl tubes
  • 11 bays of swings
  • 2 tire swings
  • 18 overhead events like monkey bars
  • 2 see saws
  • 1 Play Web
  • 1 Bernie the Bus
  • 1 train

Number of adults who volunteered on Build Days on March 19 and 29

Kids who helped out on the Build Days through children's activities.

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!

April 01, 2008 KaBOOM!

Poem to commemorate Cesar Chavez Day

In Memory of Cesar Chavez
Born March 31, 1927 died April 22, 1993
By Loretta Martinez Williams
President, Tejano Association for Historical Preservation
Houston, Tex.

I was wet with the morning dew,
I was wet with poison too.
DDT had fallen from the sky,
I was so small, I didn't ask why.
We lived on their land,
And worked with our hands.
We existed from their store,
Worked ‘til we weren't needed anymore.
We then went on unto our next stop,
So tired at night into our shack we'd drop.
With a hoe and a shovel,
We had yet to overcome our trouble.
It wasn't easy living a life like this,
And it's the loss of our life that we are amiss.
You sacrificed yourself,
In order to seek help,
Trying to change the old way of life,
Helping us to overcome our strife.
Non violently struggling for our rights,
Answering the call and our guiding light.
Steadfast and bringing attention to our plight.
You would become the victor of our rights,
And yet you weren't with us for very long,
But in your time you helped us to become strong.
¡La Huelga, si se mueve!
¡Si se puede! ¡Si se puede!
These words we remember when we think of you,
Our loyalty and trust eternally true.

ANKENY, Iowa -- On March 25, neighbors of Somersby Park were invited to cast a vote for their favorite park playground design. With three designs to choose from, over 50 votes were cast, including votes from a number of kids that had the opportunity to select what amenities will be in their new playground.

The three designs, provided by Boland Recreation, Inc., varied by the types of swings, slides, climbing walls and teeter totters, as well as the shape of the playground area. A company representative was also on hand during the voting to answer questions and explain how each piece of equipment worked.

The winning design features a large tower structure, a set of swings and unique equipment from the Xccent playground company called the Gyro and the X-Wave 2.

One young man, participating in the democratic process for the first time, cast his vote and then excitedly asked, "Can we go play there now?"

Playground voting is one way Ankeny engages its citizens in projects and activities and advances the city council's goal to promote active lifestyles and community involvement. The process begins with a series of neighborhood meetings in which city staff work with residents to determine the types of amenities that will be included in the park and what the playground will look like. Staff then begins work with a design team in developing three different playground designs. Neighborhood residents are invited back a month or so later to vote on which one of the three designs they like best. The design with the most votes is the one that is installed in the park. All are eligible to vote – especially the kids, as they will be the primary users of the playground!

The winning playground will be installed in June as part of the initial development phase of the park. Other improvements include landscaping, a trail loop and the Fallen Soldier Memorial Plaza, in honor of an Ankeny soldier and resident of the Somersby neighborhood, recently killed in the war. The seven acre park will eventually grow to nearly 14 acres, through future land acquisition.

Ankeny 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.

Karen Lowell
Linscott Charter School Parent and PR Committee Chairperson

I started to write about the structures we built and the details of the day. But the soul of the day wasn't in the building details; it was in the people. The scurrying masses flew to work as a jovial mob, moving tools, setting out the playground components, arranging food and water, and otherwise setting up the material proof that we were really going to build a playground by 2:30 p.m.

All day long people I knew and people I didn't know were slapping high fives and hugging me in giddy delight. Mothers embarrassed children as they salsa-danced their way from work site to work site. People stopped me to tell me they had goose bumps. There was JOY in the air, and proud amazement that we were really going to pull it off.

The best moment was at the very end when all but the KaBOOM! team and a handful of us from Linscott were left. A woman from the neighborhood walked by and asked, "What happened here today!?" She said a young man had walked past her house as he left the build site, and simply stepped into her yard to help her garden. "That NEVER happens in this neighborhood."

Well, after our magical day it just may. We mixed concrete to hold up our playground; we mixed friendship, joy and pride to cement the bonds that hold us together as a community. Long after the children who play on this playground are grown, we will all remember the spirit of joy with which it was built. I feel immensely privileged to have been part of it all.

By Nick Spain

The Grain Project

The Grain Project is honored to have been asked by the city of Santa Ana Parks, Recreation and Community Services Agency and KaBOOM! to design, plan, and help build a community garden at Jerome Park in conjunction with the Cesar Chavez Day of Service. This garden will be the first of its kind established in a Santa Ana city park. The decision to create the Jerome Park garden project recognizes the need for ready access to fresh, flavorful and nutritious, locally-produced fruits and vegetables. This comes at a time when our food comes from increasingly distant locations; when "factory farming" has turned much of what we eat into a commodity to be bought and sold, rather than savored and enjoyed; and where the systematic over-processing of basic food items has resulted in health threats for young and old alike.

Local community gardens offer an opportunity for neighborhoods and residents to once again connect with the essential human experience of producing one's own food in a context of comfort and familiarity where neighbors, friends, and family can work together in a common pursuit. One especially exciting aspect of the Jerome Park "edible garden" is the cross-section of potential gardeners: young, old, faith-based, recent immigrants, and natives. The immediate proximity to two schools, a church with one of the city's largest memberships, a senior center, and a community center present tremendous opportunities for bridging gaps, mentoring, and community building.

The community garden will enhance the existing park and surrounding community by bringing together food, nutrition, open space and community partnership. KaBOOM! and the city of Santa Ana, through this joint effort, will help contribute towards a new era of sustainable urban living: bonding people, land, and communities together in a way where we all have a personal investment in the food we eat and the place where it comes from.