Two hundred volunteers are hard at work building a playground in a low-income Washington, D.C. neighborhood. Most are fans of the city's professional ice hockey team, the Washington Capitals, which participated in the effort.
Play is important for children’s physical, mental and social development, but some kids don’t get to play outside much because there are no playgrounds or parks in their neighborhoods or no safe places to play away from traffic. A group called KaBoom is dedicated to changing that. They're building the playground with the help of the Capitals.
“We build a playground in six hours. It is always fun," says Evan Mynatt, the project manager. "People can say it is impossible, it is really tough to imagine. But it is really, really fun to see everything all set and ready to go.”
KaBoom’s first project went up 15 years ago. Since then, partnering with local businesses and other organizations, the non-profit group has built more than 2,000 community playgrounds across the country.
“The goal, our vision, is for a safe place to play within walking distance of every child in America,” says Mynatt.
In the case of the Washington, D.C. project, neighborhood children participated in a designing session for their dream playground a couple of months ago. Elements from their drawings were incorporated into the final design.
Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green and local radio show host Elliot Segal helped raise money for the playground through their So Kids Can program, a fundraising initiative which benefits a different youth-focused, nonprofit each year.
"We go based on my points during the season. However many goals I get, I donate a certain amount of money, points I donate a certain amount of money," Green says. "And then Elliot matches it. And we do local fundraisers around the city that raises money for this cause. "
KaBoom's vision has expanded beyond U.S. cities.
“Internationally, we have actually had people build in Nepal, in South Africa, in a number of countries around the world," says Danielle Marshall, Kaboom's director of community engagement. "We have seen things pop up in Mexico and Puerto Rico, specifically using again our online planning tools and resources.”
KaBoom’s website features information for do-it-yourself playground builders, based on lessons learned over the past 15 years.
“Everything from researching a good space to build your playground to thinking about how to recruit volunteers to even choosing maybe the safety surfacing and the design elements for the playground," Marshall says.
As each piece of play equipment is put in place, the new Washington, D.C. playground begins to take shape.
“We got here at 6:30 in the morning. We have been working very hard all day," says volunteer Sarah Bahl, who took a day off from work to pitch in. "I feel excellent about it. I think that it is just going to be beautiful for the kids and I can't wait to see their faces once they see it.”
Six hours after Bahl and the other volunteers began work, the playground is complete. Neighborhood children and their families come out to celebrate what many American children take for granted - having a safe, fun place to play outside.