Do you remember your favorite childhood park?
How you’d race there to meet your friends and spend hours dangling from the monkey bars, racing down the slides and swinging so high you thought you’d lift right out of your seat?
You built memories there, made friends, exercised without even realizing it and turned yourself into a pirate, a princess or an explorer desperately trying to avoid the hot ‘lava’ sand.
Now imagine that each time you went to the park, a piece of your equipment was taken away. And slowly, the space that brought you so much joy was whittled down smaller and smaller, until one day, it was gone.
This is what happened to the kids in the Schiller Way Apartment Community, who watched their old playground structure deteriorate piece by piece, right in front of their eyes. As each piece of the metal structure broke or was deemed too unsafe, the maintenance crew would come to take it away. When the structure was finally completely removed, the kids were understandably devastated.
“Somebody had to fill that need and help the folks out,” said Chris Hughson, Asset Manager for Home Forward, an organization dedicated to finding affordable housing for working-class and vulnerable families in their communities.
For guidance, funding and volunteer support, Home Forward partnered with veteran playground builders KaBOOM! and Foresters Financial™ to make the playground dream a reality.
“Foresters has this down to a science and were there with us every step of the way,” said Chris. “Every build is a little different, but knowing the level of experience they have working with KaBOOM!, you feel like you’re in good hands.”
But one pair of hands is nowhere near enough! Involvement from the community is a necessity. And while this vibrant, multicultural community was ready to roll up their sleeves and work together, there was one last hiccup – a significant language barrier among the diverse volunteers.
“There was a lot of animated hand gesturing when we were trying to get the planning started. We didn’t really have the ability to communicate at first; it was kind of funny,” Chris says with a laugh.
Thankfully, the initial communication difficulties didn’t stop Chris and the over 200 volunteers from working together to strengthen their community and, in the process, their bonds with each other.
“We really achieved our goal of creating a community space where families could come together and watch their children play in a safe environment,” said Domenica Mendez, Site Manager at Schiller Way Apartment community. “It was a really touching experience to see everyone come together; it showed me that there are a lot of good people in this world.”
Chris excitedly recalls that “the energy was awesome and it was amazing to see everyone come out of their homes and put in the effort to build the play area. It’s events like these that really bring people together.”
It’s no surprise that a playground is a pillar of the community and an example of how we have the power to turn play spaces, and all spaces, into transformative theaters of activity, inspiration, and discovery.
“Every resident has something positive to say about the playground,” Chris says proudly. “Having somewhere for the kids to play is extremely important so that they get the balanced and active play they need to thrive. The kids love playing and it has positively transformed the community!”
413917 CAN/US (06/16)