KABOOM! Announces Baltimore as Inaugural Partner in the National 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity Link copied!

April 4, 2022

Baltimore, MD

Today, KABOOM! announced Baltimore as the first official partner of the 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity, their five-year, $250 million plan to accelerate efforts towards achieving playspace equity across the United States. Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools), Baltimore City Recreation and Parks (BCRP) and KABOOM!, with the support of Baltimore Mayor, Brandon M. Scott, will embark on the urgent work ahead to ensure every child in Baltimore has access to places to play where they live and learn.

“Achieving playspace equity across Baltimore will send the message that we believe in our youth and know they’re capable of the brightest possible future,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “Playgrounds profoundly impact our young people: they’re a place to sharpen skills that will serve them for a lifetime, build friendships, and feel a sense of belonging. In line with my administration’s mission to prioritize youth, we want every young person across the city to be able to step onto a brand-new playground that they designed and their community built just for them so they can understand that they matter and that their community leaders see them and recognize their needs.”

Playgrounds in parks and schoolyards are vital resources for Baltimore kids, helping to meet an urgent need to strengthen the physical, social, and emotional health of children growing up under the weight of the pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the essential value and need for easily accessible parks and playspaces, especially in Black and Brown communities that are already bearing the brunt of disinvestment and lack of resources due to systemic racism.

A 2019 analysis of Baltimore City Public Schools’ playgrounds by KABOOM! found that City Schools receives hundreds of millions less in capital funds each year compared to surrounding school systems that serve a comparable number of students. This assessment clearly outlines the specific need for playspaces, and KABOOM! and Baltimore City Public Schools now know the amount of investment in kids needed to address the specific playspace inequity in City Schools.“Our top priority is the educational, emotional, and social success of our students. Accessible and safe playspaces like these are critical to those efforts,” said Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises. “This initiative with KABOOM! is one more step to ensuring our students have great facilities to learn and grow. We can’t wait to get started with 25 in 5!”

Addressing the needs of kids and creating safe spaces for them to heal and recover post-pandemic is critical to their well-being, and a top priority in Baltimore as City Schools and BCRP become official Playce Partners in the 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity.

“The partnership between our agency and KABOOM! is exactly what we envisioned when we began to implement our five-year strategic plan, Rec 2025 and what we mean when we say ‘ARPA at Work’,” said Executive Director, Reginald Moore, BCRP. We are in our communities assessing the recreational needs and leaning on our partners, staff, residents, elected officials, and other stakeholders to bring Baltimore City’s recreation spaces into the 21st century. We look forward to the day our young people can enjoy these improved playspaces and are working around the clock to make sure that day comes soon.”

Mayor Scott recently announced a $41 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation that will be a much-needed first step towards advancing a much larger collective vision and need for addressing the systemic lack of investment in recreation in its totality. As a part of this work, the City will work with KABOOM! to identify and address the specific playspace inequities and gaps in access to quality playspaces to ensure future places to play are built where there is the greatest need to create positive outcomes for kids and communities.

KABOOM! has a long history of working alongside partners and communities across Baltimore to build kid-designed playspaces that can spark joy and foster a sense of belonging for the kids who are often denied opportunities to thrive. In 2015, following Freddie Gray’s death and the civil unrest that resulted, KABOOM! doubled down on investing in Baltimore’s kids. KABOOM! partnered with Family League of Baltimore and Baltimore Corps to launch “Play More, B’More,” an initiative that built 25 playspaces – 12 of which were playgrounds at Baltimore City Public Schools.

KABOOM! has since built relationships with city officials, community leaders, and stakeholders – kids and parents alike – that have resulted in strong partnerships with agencies across the city. In 2019, KABOOM! formalized a partnership with the Baltimore City Public Schools, agreeing to work together to solve the problem of playspace inequity across public schools in Baltimore.

In this latest phase of work across Baltimore, a key focus of the 25 in 5 Initiative in the city and nationwide is to continue to build partnerships with communities, nonprofits, municipal agencies, and other organizations that provide a network of playspaces where kids live and learn, and promote health and well-being through the creation and transformation of playspaces in communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

“For decades, segregation, disinvestment, and depopulation have forced Baltimore city leaders to make seemingly impossible choices about where to invest in playgrounds – iconic and critical public infrastructure for every child,” said KABOOM! CEO Lysa Ratliff. “Alongside City Schools, BCRP, Mayor Scott, and our network of committed partners, we can drive the positive systemic change necessary to ensure that every kid in Baltimore has an amazing place to play, learn, and unlock their greatest potential. And we will continue to rally together so that the progress made in Baltimore is possible in every city across the country.”

KABOOM! plans to raise $250 million for the 25 in 5 Initiative, a substantial, but necessary goal to address the urgent, unprecedented challenges facing children today. A $14 million gift from MacKenzie Scott was the first significant funding to accelerate progress towards the goals of the Initiative. KABOOM! is seeking the partnership of funders, communities, nonprofits, municipal agencies, and other organizations to help drive resources to local places with limited access to quality playspaces for the kids and communities that are too often denied opportunities. Playspace equity is achievable in our lifetime, and together, we can work to end playspace inequity for good.