Working for Play Space
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Oct 8, 2012, 14:35
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Over 400 members of the Fort Lee community helped build a child designed playground on post.
All work and no play is never a good thing, but work for play can be an exciting opportunity to bring a community together for the good of its children.
On Saturday morning, 400 volunteers from the Fort Lee community were working for that purpose when they turned out to construct a playground designed by the post’s children.
“A few weeks ago, we had a design day and the kids told us what they wanted on their dream playgrounds,” explained Allie Farrington, Project Manager for KaBOOM!, a non-profit organization devoted to constructing safe play areas for children across the country.
Taking their cues from crayon drawings of zip lines, swings, “really big slides,” and “bouncy bridges” KaBOOM! picked out the equipment hundreds of volunteers helped assemble and install in the Monroe Manors neighborhood on Saturday.
The build at Fort Lee was part of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group’s “Let’s Play” initiative, a $15 million, three-year commitment the beverage company made to KaBOOM! with the goal of building or refurbishing 2,000 playgrounds to benefit five million children across the country.
“It’s an initiative to try to get kids out to play,” said Dean Purcell, Vice President of military, non-traditional and contract manufacturing with Dr. Pepper Snapple. “With the industry being criticized for obesity, part of Let’s Play and KaBOOM is to get kids out, because we feel that obesity is more about what the kids do actively than it is with what they consume.”
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson KaBooM! has helped construct and renovate over 2,000 playgrounds, three on bases.
Before the construction even started, the volunteers at Fort Lee had already broken a record.
“This, I’m going to say, is probably going to break the record for volunteer count,” Farrington said, surveying a sea of helpers. “There are lot of people here today. The community was supposed to recruit 250 and we’re well over that at this point.”
According to Casey Surley, community Director for the Villages at Fort Lee managed by Pinnacle, 400 people signed up to help, an outpouring of support that didn’t surprise her.
“Whenever soldiers are involved and it’s something that’s so meaningful and lasting, I think everyone was just bound to come,” she said.
Team leaders, clad in costume hats and silly outfits, guided uniformed and plain clothes soldiers and other volunteers from Fort Lee in unwrapping and assembling a collection of equipment that included twisty monkey bars, a rock wall and purple slides. Others painted bricks for the walkways in bright colors and dug holes and mixed concrete to anchor the equipment the children said they wanted.
She said that playgrounds help shape healthy adults. “Kids need a safe and fun place to play,” Farrington said. “All across the county, only one in five children have a safe place to play. It’s really important for their physical, social, emotional development that they have a safe and active place that they can play and be kids.”
Since it’s inception, KaBOOM! has built over 2,000 playgrounds across the country. The playground at Fort Lee is the organization’s third military base build, after projects at Fort Meade and Camp Pendleton.
After breaking the record for volunteer count, Fort Lee had its eyes on Camp Pendleton’s six-hour fastest build record.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson The painting crew worked to turn brick blocks into brightly colored pathways to play.
KaBOOM! got started in 1995 when Darrell Hammond read an article about two Washington D.C. children who suffocated and died while playing in an abandoned car because they had nowhere else to go. Preventing another tragedy like that shaped his life’s work. Surley said that she was moved by that story and deligted to see Hammond’s mission playing out at Fort Lee.
“When you think about it like that, that you could possibly save lives because of this playground, it’s awesome,” Surley said.