DESIGN DAY—Students from Faison Elementary learn about their new playground. (Photo by Rossano P. Stewart)
A few years ago as a member of the Urban League Young Professionals, Branden Ballard helped build a brand new playground, from start to finish, in one day. The project was made possible by KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting outdoor play.
“It was a ton of fun. It was a long day,” said Ballard, who now serves the community as a member of Public Allies, a civic leadership nonprofit. “It was interesting to see the mix of people who were there. It was nice to see the people come together.”
Projects like the one Ballard took part in are usually done in a city once every year or two. However now, KaBOOM! is partnering with local charitable foundation, the Heinz Endowments, who has committed $800,000 to build as many as ten playgrounds throughout Pittsburgh over the next two years.
“It’s excellent because it’s going to allow for what Pittsburgh needs and that’s collaboration,” Ballard said. “It builds a sense of ownership and accomplishment where (the community) can say, ‘I built this.’ It’s rewarding.”
According to KaBOOM!, children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation, which can have disastrous consequences on their health, achievement levels, and overall well-being. Since KaBOOM! was founded in 1996, the organization has helped build more than 2,100 playgrounds through their Community Partner Program.
KaBOOM! and the Heinz Endowments kicked-off the first in the series of 10 playground builds with a “design day” with children from Faison Elementary K-5. The students created drawings of their dream playground, which will be incorporated in the final playground to be built on April 13 at the Homewood Children’s Village, a nonprofit organization serving the students at Faison and families throughout the Homewood community.
“The commitment that this funding partner has shown to building 10 playgrounds is a great opportunity to take advantage of,” said Sally Dorman, a KaBOOM! community outreach representative at an informational meeting for prospective applicants. “We envision having a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.”
As part of KaBOOM!’s program, communities participate in a eight to ten week planning process, where they learn skills such as community planning, public relations, and fundraising. As part of their commitment, communities are responsible for raising $8,500 to contribute to the cost of playground equipment.
The results of KaBOOM!’s playground amount to more than a place to play for children in their neighborhoods. The playgrounds also include side projects such as community gardens and performance stages and have lead to the formation of community organizations such as public safety watch groups.
After the playground is completed, the community is responsible for long-term and daily maintenance as well as liability insurance. In order to be eligible for the program, applying communities must own the property and have at least 2,500 square feet to work with. For more information on the application process and participation requirements visit www.kaboom.org.