President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama joined representatives from KaBOOM!, MyGoodDeed, AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, Corporation for National and Community Service, The Inspired Teaching School, and Washington community members to commemorate this year's National Day of Service and Remembrance by participating in a playground build and service projects to improve the lives of local children though play.
The new playground was built for The Inspired Teaching Public Charter School and will positively impact more than 500 children by providing a safe place for them to get the play they need to thrive. One of the service projects the President and First Lady participated in was the assembly of 300 Go Out and Play! Essentials Packs to bring balanced and active play to local kids in need. The backpacks included: a kickball, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, a flying disc, Play-Doh, a kazoo, an opportunity to draw their dream playground, and copies of My Dream Playground and Go Out and Play! Favorite Outdoor Games from KaBOOM!. They will be donated to two area non-profits dedicated to improving the lives of homeless children – The Homeless Children Playtime Project and Extra-Ordinary Birthdays.
The service projects and playground build illustrated the importance of play and the bonds it forges with children and the caring adults in their lives. It also served as a shining example of how a community, by bringing together different partners and serving together, can ensure kids get the playful childhood they deserve.
KaBOOM! alumna and former AmeriCorps volunteer, Nicole Newman, was also on-site to share her experience. Nicole participated in a KaBOOM! playground design day more than 13 years ago, as a child living at Lydia's House. Her experience – of helping to create a safe place to play for herself and her friends; rolling up her sleeves and volunteering for a good cause; and watching something as seemingly simple as play help the children and families at Lydia's House deal with the real-world problems putting them at risk for toxic stress – left a lifelong impression on her. She has since dedicated her life to community service and has participated in a KaBOOM! playground build process as an adult.
As a young girl growing up in challenging circumstances in Washington, D.C., Nicole moved into Lydia's House, a non-profit dedicated to serving at-risk kids and families. At Lydia's House, Nicole was surrounded by caring adults who encouraged her to enjoy being a kid and gave her permission to play.
"Play helps me relax. It's not healthy to walk around tense all the time."
Nicole participated in a KaBOOM! design day where she had the chance to draw her dream playground and witness it become a reality with the help of more than 200 community volunteers and KaBOOM! organizers. Her experience – of helping to create a safe place to play for herself and her friends; rolling up her sleeves and volunteering for a good cause; and watching something as seemingly simple as play help those at Lydia's House address the toxic stress many of them faced – left a lifelong impression on her.
"Play is the place where I can just be Nicole."
She has dedicated her life to improving the D.C. community and helping kids get the playful childhood she enjoyed so they too can thrive. After serving with AmeriCorps, Nicole went on to become the director of development at Lydia's House. She is now a community organizer for the D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative. And just a few months ago, Nicole led a planning committee for a KaBOOM! playground build in Northeast D.C. that is now serving more than 500 kids! She credits where she is today as a direct result of caring adults giving her the opportunity to have a playful childhood and just be a kid.
"Where I am today is a direct result of people giving me permission to just be a kid, and not let my environment or my family relationships define me in a way that limited me."
"Service is the rent we pay for being." - Marian Wright Edelman pic.twitter.com/jjZrsauKrG— KaBOOM! (@kaboom) September 11, 2014
In honor of the National Day of Service, we're building a playground to give 500 kids the play they need to thrive. #playmatters— KaBOOM! (@kaboom) September 11, 2014