A slice of woodsy, marshy and cleared land on Waveland Avenue was donated by the family of Delmer and Mary Wilcox to the city for use as a park and playground. Waveland was contemplating the best way to use the six acres when Hurricane Katrina downed trees and deposited debris on the land.|
In a way, Katrina sped the process.
With Mississippi Coast children now in desperate need of safe places to play, KaBOOM! has stepped in with Operation Playground: Rebuilding Playgrounds; Restoring Childhood. KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit that started 10 years ago with the vision of having "a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America."
KaBOOM!, with the help of corporate sponsors, other donors and volunteers who do the muscle work, has built more than 1,000 playgrounds, skate parks, sports fields and ice rinks.
Now, with the guidance of CEO and founder Darell Hammond, KaBOOM! is concentrating on Gulf Coast areas affected by hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
"We keep joking that our founder needs to move to the Mississippi Coast because he's already been there at least a dozen times," said KaBOOM! spokeswoman Sara Pinsky, who lives in Chicago.
Hammond's most recent visit was Thursday for the one-day construction of a playground at Wilcox Community Park in Waveland. Since December, KaBOOM! has also orchestrated playgrounds in Bay St. Louis and the Kiln.
Waveland's was funded by Motorola, and some of its executives provided the one-day labor for construction. Each KaBOOM! playground is different because community children are brought into the planning.
"Our goal is to have at least 100 new play spaces in the Gulf region," said Pinsky. "In April we'll do one in Pass Christian and we're working on a schedule for one in Biloxi."
The Waveland playground opened Saturday, two days after construction because the concrete needed to set.
"It's hard to keep the kids off," Pinsky admitted, "but sometimes it's the adults that want to sneak in early."
- KAT BERGERON