- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2002

One minute, there was an empty lot. But long before the sun set yesterday, there was a brand new playground in the District, thanks to KaBOOM, a national nonprofit organization that believes play isn't a luxury it's a child's right.
In only four hours, hundreds of volunteers from the Sprint telecommunications company, the D.C. Parks and Recreation and KaBOOM's efficient but playful staff built a 1,200-square-foot playground complete with Rocky Ridge Climber, a fire pole, a double lightning slide, a U Bounce and a Look Out Tower at the Bald Eagle Recreation Center in Southwest.
Darell Hammond, founder of KaBOOM, supervised the volunteers, who started at 9 a.m. By 1 p.m., the playground was ready for its opening tomorrow.
Building close friendships is KaBOOM's primary mission. Founded in 1995, the organization has built 342 free playgrounds around the country 51 of them in the District alone.
"Kids don't have a vote or a voice," Mr. Hammond said. "If they had that, they would be out marching for more playgrounds, and children who live east of the river deserve the right to play.
"There's a saying: 'Play is the work of children.' If they have no place to play, they're unemployed." he said.
Mr. Hammond, 32, watched with a smile and children laughed as volunteers in red T-shirts assembled the playground equipment, mixed concrete, hauled a hill full of mulch and installed border timbers while the music of R&B; singer Jill Scott resonated in the background.
Mr. Hammond, who lives in Adams Morgan, complimented the Sprint Corp. for "adopting" this particular playground. Instead of just writing a check for the playground, Sprint's employees rolled up their sleeves and got busy. Many of the Sprint volunteers also recruited friends and family to get the job done, Mr. Hammond said.
D.C. Parks and Recreation plans to renovate all of its playgrounds citywide by 2005. The agency renovated a playground at First Street and Florida Avenue in Northwest. New playgrounds are scheduled to open this summer and fall the old Kennedy Street playground in Northwest and the North Michigan Park in Northeast, said Terry Lee, the agency's chief communications officer.
Last year, D.C. Parks and Recreation built a $1.5 million gymnasium at Bald Eagle Recreation Center. However, the old playground at Bald Eagle had fallen into disrepair, and the equipment had been removed.
"The great thing about playgrounds is that they help to link the generations children and grandparents," Mr. Lee said with a smile.
Jannell Grooms, 9, a fourth grader who attends Patterson Elementary School in Southeast, couldn't contain her happiness because she lives across from the new play area.
"I come over here [to the center] every day unless I'm sick," Jannell said, "because there are so many activities. I can play pingpong, and sometimes we sit out on the grounds. And, then sometimes we play basketball. Now, I'm looking forward to playing on the playground."
Ciera James , a sixth grader who also attends Patterson Elementary School, said she and her friends had to go to a playground in Anacostia if they wanted to play on the swings or the slides. That all changed yesterday.


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