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Last Update: February 22, 2012

KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit dedicated to saving play for America’s children. Although not yet under the KaBOOM! name, the first KaBOOM! community playground build took place in October 1995, at Livingston Manor in southeast Washington, DC. KaBOOM! was officially founded in 1996. Since then, KaBOOM! has raised more than $200 million, rallied a million volunteers, led the hands-on construction of over 2,060 playgrounds, and inspired a movement for the child’s right to play. KaBOOM! has recently expanded and built playgrounds in both Mexico and Canada.

The Problem

In August 1995 24-year-old Darell Hammond read a story in the Washington Post about two local children who suffocated while playing in an abandoned car because they didn’t have anywhere else to play. Darell realized this tragedy could have been prevented. This tragedy led to the idea of KaBOOM!. It was founded to address the Play Deficit in the United States. The lack of play for children is causing physical, intellectual, social, and emotional harm to our children. Physical harm: In neighborhoods without a park or playground, the incidence of childhood obesity increases 29%. Intellectual harm: Without ample play, we will continue to see a decrease in creativity and imagination, as well as vital skills including curiosity, social skills, resiliency, and the ability to assess risk. Social harm: Children who don’t play don’t learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and advocate for themselves. The lack of these skills has dramatic long-term effects. Emotional harm: Studies have shown that schools without recess face increased incidence in classroom behavioral problems, including violence and emotional outbursts. Their students show a lack of ability to interact with peers and authority figures.

The Solution

KaBOOM!'s strategy consists of finding a community group , usually a school, youth club ect who want a playground in their neighbourhood, they then find a funding partner (usually a corporation, business, foundation) who want to fund the playground build. The two are then matched up; with the help of KaBOOM! The community group and children design their ideal playground. On build day, volunteers from the community and funding partner come together and build the playground in one day. KaBOOM’s mission is for every child to be within walking distance of a safe playground, the current problem they have is trying to achieve more faster. In an effort to overcome this they are currently trying to help communities build playgrounds by themselves, through measures such as online seminars, tips on fundraising, and encouraging cities to become ‘playful’.


Programs ran by KaBOOM! Playground Project Planner: Communities can use our online playground project planner to get help building and funding a playground. Like a wedding, a community-build happens in one day, involves hundreds of people, and requires months of careful planning. By registering your project, you become eligible for equipment grants and other funding opportunities Community Partnerships: Our Community Partners are non-profit child-serving organizations in communities that meet specific criteria and have unmet play needs. Once selected, these partners are matched with a Funding Partner and engage in an 8-10 week playground build process that culminates in a beautiful, kid-designed playground. Funding Partnerships: For each playground project, KaBOOM! works with a Funding Partner to identify and support a Community Partner (a child-serving nonprofit) in the market of their choice. Funding Partners contribute a tax-deductible financial gift and employee volunteers ready for a turnkey, high-energy, done-in-a-day team-building project. Grants: One of the biggest challenges facing any community-build playground project is fundraising. Thanks to our generous funding partners, KaBOOM! offers communities occasional grant opportunities to begin or complete playground projects using our community-build model. Imagination Playground: KaBOOM! is partnering with New York Architect David Rockwell to help create truly great playgrounds across America. Imagination Playground is based around the concept of "free play," a simple but powerful idea that children should initiate and direct their own play, and should be able to manipulate their environment. Alumni Network: KaBOOM! alumni are individuals and organizations who have completed playground builds in their communities. KaBOOM! alumni can share their stories and ideas with each other, access exclusive incentives and grants, and receive helpful information to keep the momentum going after build day. Playful City USA: Playful City USA is a national recognition program honoring cities and towns across the nation committed to taking action for play. Playful City USA communities are eligible for $2.1 million in grants over the next three years. Among other benefits, they also receive priority status for KaBOOM! playground builds and grants (totaling over $3.8 million since 2007) and recognition at national municipal leadership and recreation conferences. Online Trainings: KaBOOM! offers an extensive array of online trainings, available live and on-demand, to help empower community leaders to save play. With topics ranging from Building a Playspace to Hot Topics in Play to Promoting Play, our trainings are led both by KaBOOM! staff and external guest presenters with special areas of expertise. All trainings are free and open to the public. The Map of Play: The Map of Play is a tool for parents and policy-makers alike to find play spaces, rank them, organize events at them, and determine where greater investment in play is necessary. Kaboom.org hosts the Map of Play, but it is a crowd-sourced tool that depends on contributions from parents and local communities.


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Comments & Activity


Fri, 02/17/2012 - 05:37

I think KaBOOM! is doing fantastic work. Your focus on constructing innovative play spaces for children will play an instrumental role in enhancing their cognitive and physical development.
Here are some links to Foundations that focus their grantmaking activities on child welfare:
American Legion Child Welfare Foundation (http://www.cwf-inc.org/grantseekers/overview), Annie E. Casey Foundation (http://www.aecf.org/AboutUs/GrantInformation.aspx), Baltimore Community Foundation (http://www.bcf.org/Grantseekers/WelcomeGrantseekers/tabid/379/Default.aspx), The Beaumont Foundation (http://www.bmtfoundation.com/bfa/guidelines.htm). Please let me know if you would like me to do additional research on Foundations in your area of interest.

Darrell Hammond profile img
Fri, 02/24/2012 - 10:04

Hi Ravija, I'm Giustina an intern working on behalf of KaBOOM! at present. Thank you very much for taking an interest in the work KaBOOM! does, and for the links to the foundations. I will pass them to the relevant people.