Operation Playground: Catalyst for Community Development

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A study led by the Asset-Based Community Development Institute of Northwestern University found that over 90 percent of respondents "believe that their playground project helped strengthen relationships among neighborhood residents and among community partners," and that "their project increased their collective confidence and transformed skepticism."

The residents of these devastated communities constantly come out in overwhelming numbers to revitalize them.

"The very first build that we did after the hurricanes hit was in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi," said Vietti. "We were hoping for a couple hundred volunteers and we had over 500 volunteers show up. That speaks to the community development and the importance, certainly in the wake of the hurricanes, of just having folks come together to do something positive."

A KaBOOM! project begins with a call to the area's kids to come to a "Design Day" where they draw their dream playgrounds on large sheets of paper, and KaBOOM! examines the drawings for common themes, common pieces of equipment and common colors to incorporate into the design of the actual playground around 6 to 8 weeks later.

The responsibility then falls on adult volunteers to show up and make the children's dream playgrounds a reality. If successful, the feeling of accomplishment can be priceless.

"We'll start at about 8:30 in the morning and we'll be finished by about 2:30," says Vietti. "So, in 6 or 7 hours, we'll go from an empty lot to a brand new playground that kids can enjoy for years to come. And we'll tell people, 'You did this in 6 or 7 hours. So, if you can do this in 6 or 7 hours, think about what else you can do.'"

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