On Saturday morning at 8:30 am, more than 500 volunteers from the White House, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and KaBOOM! National Partners converged on an open field beside the future home of Hyde Leadership Public Charter School. They'd gathered to build a playground for the 500 students that will be moving into the renovated building in December.
To kick off the event, White House Cabinet Secretaries, Shaun Donovan, Arne Duncan, Ray LaHood, and Tom Vilsack each took a moment to discuss the importance of play and playgrounds for children, schools and communities. "My goal is not just to make sure that every school has a playground but that every neighborhood has a playground," proclaimed Donovan. LaHood went on to stress how important it is to be able to walk to a playground. "I love the KaBOOM! mission of a place to play within walking distance. We don't just need playgrounds, we need sidewalks and paths to help families reach those playgrounds," he said. Duncan added, "Every school needs a cafeteria serving healthy food and a playground where kids can get active." Vilsack summed everyone's sentiments by saying simply "Eat right, play hard and you'll live a long life."
With that the volunteers were turned loose on their projects, building a giant playdome, an adventure tube and curly slide, an outdoor stage, benches, picnic tables, and everything the school needed to make the space a beautiful place for the whole community to spend time.
Other groups attacked two giant piles of safety surfacing that they hauled over to the play area, one tarp at a time.
Donovan excelled at assembling the school's new rock wall, while Duncan was a tour de force mixing concrete and hauling mulch.
The playground build was led by national non-profit KaBOOM! (kaboom.org) as part of USA Weekend's "Make A Difference Day" a national day of service involving more than 3 million people nationwide.
The majority of the funding for this playground was provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as part of a national effort to engage residents in getting involved in their communities.
Patrick A. Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, also joined in the day, leading a team of nearly 100 AmeriCorps members and agency staff. Sixty current and former White House Fellows rounded out the build teams.
Grown-ups weren't the only ones volunteering. Kids helped out too, hauling mulch, assembling equipment, painting hopscotch and other asphalt games, and keeping the mood lively.
To take a break, kids had the opportunity to play simple old-school games with a team from Playworks, a national nonprofit organization that provides safe, healthy, inclusive play and physical activity to schools at recess and throughout the entire school day.
For kids that wanted to play their own way, the Knight Foundation also provided an Imagination Playground in a Box to the school. This breakthrough play space concept designed by architect David Rockwell and encourage child-directed, unstructured free play. Complete with custom designed blue foam blocks and other loose parts, and elements that encourage sand and water play, Imagination Playground in a Box allows children to constantly reconfigure their environment and design their own course of play.
Volunteers from KaBOOM! National Partners Foresters, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, MetLife Foundation, and Kraft Foods Foundation also lent a hand to ensure that the playground was completed at 2:30.
At the ribbon cutting, Corvington saluted KaBOOM! for including students and community members in planning the playground and thanked the volunteers for their hard work. "This is an example of what happens when people come together to solve problems." KaBOOM! project manager Kara Hoffman then made all the children (and adults) on site promise not to play on the playground until Tuesday afternoon, when the concrete will be cured.