I’m lucky to live in an area of northern Colorado that is family friendly. There are several large playgrounds with many amenities, and every school has a playground that’s open to the public. There is a lot of open space, perfect for a game of kickball or to throw a football around. 

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Not everyone is so lucky.  After Darell Hammond read about two children who died while playing in a car because they had nowhere else to go, he decided to build them a playground.  Fifteen years later, the nonprofit KaBOOM! has constructed more than 2,000 playgrounds, including the first permanent structure in the Gulf following Hurricane Katrina, and has partnered with dozens of corporations to provide the tools needed for communities to build their own playgrounds. 

In KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play, Hammond outlines how the organization started and how it differs from other nonprofits.

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He begins with his childhood. After his father walked out, his mother was unable to adequately care for him and his siblings. They moved into Mooseheart, a group home funded by Moose International.  There the author learned the impact volunteers can make on a child’s life. “A lot of my values were shaped by my time there, and I try to make those part of [KaBOOM!’s] culture.”

In the book, Hammond explains how KaBOOM! works:  A local corporation sponsors each project, including most of the funding and volunteers, and the community is responsible for some fund-raising, planning—the kids design the playground—and maintaining it once it’s done. “We have two primary aspects to our mission at KaBOOM!,” Hammond writes. “We want to turn a patch of dirt into a beautiful new playground to create better play opportunities for kids, and we want to help transform the community.”

Why playgrounds? KaBOOM! firmly believes in the importance of play—it teaches kids to take risks, solve problems and improves their ability to learn. But today’s kids have limited access to the unstructured free play that benefits them the most.  Organized sports, increased standardized testing and the abundance of video games have all contributed to the play deficit. Unsafe and outdated playgrounds are knocked down but not replaced due to budget constraints.  KaBOOM! works to serve these communities that need safe places for kids to play.

In KaBOOM! , Hammond explains why and how he started his company, why play is important and what communities can do to provide spaces for kids to play. Additionally, he highlights several communities that have built successful playgrounds and provides an appendix that outlines the process, from selecting a viable project space to the anatomy of a build-out.  Curious readers can also go to KaBOOM!’s website for details on how to construct their own playgrounds.

So, grab some inspiration from Hammond and boost your community spirit by getting your play on!

Nancy Talan is a software tester and book reviewer at 5 Minutes for Books, two careers that couldn't be more different but are both rewarding. She enjoys popular fiction and picture books. She moved her family to northern Colorado in 2009 where she enjoys great skiing and great beer.