The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jul 21, 2010

Macon Comes Together to Build KaBOOM! Playground

Posted by Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is partnering with KaBOOM! to build 13 playgrounds in five communities this year - including four in Detroit on Saturday. Watch the above video to get a feel for the playground Build Day in Macon, and read a first hand account of how the community came together to make it happen by Macon Program Director Beverly Blake

A few Saturdays ago, in 90 plus degree heat, over 100 volunteers from Macon and Middle Georgia gathered at Woodfield Academy to construct a KaBOOM! playground. What a day it was! We had a DJ, lots of food and drink, and skilled and unskilled (me) labor who came together to enjoy one another's company and a build great project.' Most of the folks there I had not met before. Great fellowship was in the air - along with 80% humidity.

I was assigned to the "dome" team - a great big jungle gym type of structure - and took my seat on the ground under a big tree with one of the other volunteers named Oscar Hugley. Our job was to get the nuts and bolts and washers all put together. We began chatting and I learned that his mother lived in Beall's Hill (one of the projects Knight Foundation is working on as part of the College Hill initiative) and we chatted and I learned a lot about the history of the neighborhood that I would never have known.' What a small world. 'Fate brought us together at a playground build so I could learn about the history and people of a neighborhood that Knight is working in.' It was obviously meant to be.

The dome was finished in 45 minutes. Our KaBOOM! project manager said it was a record. Usually it takes 1 and a half hours. She was amazed...until we all found out that our team leader is the head of engineering at Robins Air Force Base and brought some of his colleagues with him to work on the build. That explains it. And, amazingly, the team even read the instructions - or at least glanced at them.

We finished up the playground by 2 p.m. 'and had the dedication.' It was a wonderful day and I have never seen folks work so hard. I thought that because it was so hot we would lose people, but not so.' Everyone was hot, tired and sunburned but happy. And the kids were thrilled with the finished playground. The only downer was that no one could play on it for 48 hours until the concrete cured.' I went back this week to take a look and was amazed. It is beautiful and will be such a big part of Woodfield - I learned that the students will benefit not only through recreation, but the playground will also be therapeutic. Large motor skills development is important for many of the students at Woodfield.

When I returned this week and talked with Becky Sessions, the head of school, she told me something about the build that most of us never consider.' We see Build Day and all the activity and the finished product, but don't think about the eight weeks prior, when all the planning and "friendraising" and organization happens. Just think about it: you have eight weeks to raise $7500, gather over 100 volunteers, get the kids involved in the design, the families involved in the organization, sign up for committees, have weekly conference calls with KaBOOM!...a million details!' Becky said the two months leading up to the build were as important to build the Woodfield Community as the Build Day itself. Parents got to know one another. Everyone who was asked for anything was thrilled to participate (I have never seen so much food in my life - thanks to Macon's groceries and restaurants).' The way the business community came forward was amazing. Woodfield did not have to spend one penny of their operating funds to make sure Build Day was a success.' There were even funds to hire a DJ - which really helped keep us motivated.

KaBOOM! focuses on building a great playground, but the group is about so about much more. It is about bringing strangers together to accomplish something important and learning that we have something in common, like Oscar and I did. It is about working together in planning for something on faith. Since no one had ever built a KaBOOM! playground before, no one knew what to expect. It was also about families sharing a common vision for the school that is not only helping their kids succeed, but providing new friends and relationships.

But mostly I believe it's about how people with a love for community and a willingness to give can remarkably come together '- in eight weeks- to envision, plan and build a fantastic playground in only one day. 'Folks in Macon are still talking about it. And every time I put on my build T-shirt, I think of Oscar and Becky and the Woodfield Academy community. And I smile.

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