Elizabeth Chung

Kaboom! Gets a Helping Hand from the President and First Lady

It’s not everyday that the President and First Lady roll up their sleeves and volunteer for your service project event.

That’s what made September 11th special for KaBoom!, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s lives through play. To commemorate this year’s National Day of Service and Remembrance, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama participated in the organization’s recent playground build and some of its other service projects.

But first, what is a playground build?

A playground build is the effort of hundreds of people to construct a new playspace, and it all happens in one day.

It comprises one of KaBoom!’s main tactics in bringing balanced and active play to children everywhere, particularly those growing up in poverty in America. The organization catalyzes kid-designed, community-led playground builds across the country.


KaBoom! works to address the shortage of safe play spaces holistically. They equip leaders with the resources and support they need to bring more play into their communities, while simultaneously identifying spaces that need greater investment in play. With this approach, the organization aims to drive the national discussion about the importance and impact of play in championing healthier, productive lives.

Back in Washington, D.C.

The new playground was built for The Inspired Teaching School in Washington, D.C., and it will give more than 500 local children a safe place to play. Along with the new play space, the President and First Lady also helped assemble more than 300 Go Out and Play! Backpacks, filled with play essentials like sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, a kickball, and books that inspire play. The backpacks will be donated to nonprofits working to improve the lives of homeless children.

The event was an exciting one for all. “We are honored to have President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama join us today as we commemorate this important day and improve the lives of children through the power of play,” said KaBOOM! CEO and Founder Darell Hammond. “KaBOOM! has had the privilege of building two other playgrounds with the First Lady. She has always been a leader in community volunteerism, a champion for our veterans and service members, and a catalyst for making children’s lives more playful.”

A Firsthand Experience

In addition to our country’s leaders, another attendee’s presence also helped bring the organization’s vision and impact to life. KaBoom! alumna and former AmeriCorps volunteer, Nicole Newman, was present at the build. More than thirteen years ago, Nicole helped to design a KaBoom! playground as a child living at Lydia’s House, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving at-risk kids and families.

Her firsthand experience of helping to create a safe playspace for vulnerable children, and volunteering for a cause that helped others at Lydia’s House deal with stressful difficulties, has driven her to give back to the local community today.

It’s an impact cycle that speaks for itself: once a child who was impacted by a KaBoom! playground initiative, Nicole now works to help kids get the childhood she enjoyed, and she has participated in a KaBoom! playground build process as an adult.

Addressing the Play Deficit

Nicole is just one of the 7.4 million children who have been impacted by KaBoom!’s work. Since its launch in 1996, the organization has collaborated with partners to create or recover nearly 16,000 playgrounds, and it has rallied more than one million volunteers around its worthy cause.

This event – complete with the playground build, additional service projects, and broad range of volunteers – has brought KaBoom! one step closer to its goal of eradicating the play deficit across the country. It has demonstrated that a community-wide effort is needed to ultimately bring change to the spaces that need it. Bringing different partners together to work toward a single vision – of ensuring all kids have access to a playful childhood – can change the course of children’s lives everywhere.

To learn more, visit or use the hashtag #playmatters on Twitter and Facebook.

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Image Credit: Kaboom!

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