Sally Dorman has a message for community groups in Pittsburgh: "If they're ever going to apply for a KaBOOM! playground, this is the time. This is really an unprecedented investment by KaBOOM! and its funding partner."
The funding partner is the Heinz Endowments, which gave $800,000 to KaBOOM!
, the national play-promoting organization, to help local groups build 10 playgrounds in the area in 2013-14. KaBOOM! has built more than 2200 playgrounds in its history. But, says Dorman, associate community outreach coordinator of KaBOOM!, "we usually only build one playground every two years in Pittsburgh. This opportunity is very rare, and we're very excited about it." In fact, she says, if more organizations apply and qualify for playgrounds, KaBOOM! will work with the Pittsburgh groups to find other funding partners, with a goal of 20 playgrounds total across this year and next.
"We're looking for groups that have a strong emphasis on community," she adds, since KaBOOM! works with each group to solicit community input for playground designs. It also help communities with tools and models for raising the $8,500 investment required. This encourages community groups to take ownership of their new playgrounds and to maintain them. The process is also designed to increase the number of active volunteers for future community work.
Applicants need to own or lease 2,500 square feet of -- ideally -- flat, grassy, clean space, which is a premium in our hilly neighborhoods. And chosen groups must invite their community to build the playground all in one day, using hand tools, in a process demonstrated here
"The community will love that playground, because they put their own effort into it," Dorman says.
"It's an essential part of the project to keep the people invested in the community," adds KaBOOM! Communications Coordinator Alyssa Ross.
The Endowments are looking for applicants whose playgrounds are open to as many people as possible, Dorman says, with public-friendly design features such as benches, small stages, gardens or other elements. On April 13, Homewood Children's Village will build the first Heinz-funded playground.
KaBOOM! is accepting rolling applications now, but encourages groups to apply as soon as possible. As Ross points out, cities like Pittsburgh are fighting the national "play deficit." She cites statistics that show just 41 percent of kids have access to a community playground, while physical play leaves kids healthier, doing better in school and acting better as adults.
Concludes Ross: "We hope this inspires a lot of people to become involved in the play movement."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Sally Dorman and Alyssa Ross, KaBOOM!