On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, The Home Depot, KaBOOM!, Playworld Systems and Hands On Network will mobilize thousands of volunteers to come together in Gulf Coast communities from New Orleans to Pascagoula to build 10 new playspaces in just four days, including two in Biloxi.
Nearly a thousand volunteers are expected to participate in the Biloxi projects, John Henry Beck Park and Miramar Park. Each playground was designed by the children who will use it and is being planned with local residents.
In June, local children met with organizers from KaBOOM!, The Home Depot, Playworld Systems and Hands On Network to draw their 'dream' playgrounds and share their ideas for the new playspace. The drawings were used to create the final playground designs.
In addition to a new play structure, projects also include a number of other enhancements such as picnic tables, benches, shade structures and landscaping.
Planning committees made up of local residents have met weekly with representatives from all four organizations to plan these enhancements as well as volunteer recruitment, site preparation and children's activities for Build Day.
To see the plans for the Biloxi parks, along with drawings by students who were enrolled in Biloxi’s summer camp program, click here.
"Renewing hope for children is as important as rebuilding homes and businesses in Gulf Coast communities. These new playspaces are just one way The Home Depot is helping restore communities following the devastation brought by Katrina," said Bob Nardelli, chairman, president & CEO of The Home Depot.
Besides the Biloxi sites, others are Nelson UNO Charter School (New Orleans); Second Street Elementary School (Bay St. Louis); Carolyn Park Middle School (Slidell); Pass Christian High School (Pass Christian); Owen T. Palmer Park (Gulfport); Carol Vegas Park (Bay St. Louis); Central Elementary School (Pascagoula); and Hancock Medical Center (Bay St. Louis).
"We want this 'week of play' to show the Gulf Coast children and communities that we have not forgotten,” said Darell Hammond, CEO and co-founder of KaBOOM! “At the same time, we need to remind the rest of the country that there is still a lot of work to do in the areas that were affected by the storms.
"There are still so many Gulf Coast children who have no safe place to play, no place to just be kids. Given everything they've gone through this last year, we owe them that.
"KaBOOM! is committed to bringing play back to the Gulf Coast, one playground at a time, and we're thrilled to have dedicated partners like The Home Depot, Playworld Systems and Hands On Network by our side."
The projects are part of Operation Playground, a two-year initiative of KaBOOM! to build 100 playgrounds in Gulf Coast communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. By the end of the year, KaBOOM! will have mobilized more than 5,000 volunteers to build 30 playgrounds in the Gulf Coast through Operation Playground.
The Home Depot is investing more than $75 million to support the ongoing rebuilding efforts throughout the Gulf region. Combining capital construction with philanthropic support, the investment is creating jobs, driving economic activity and supporting local community efforts to rebuild homes and offer hope for the future. Through the Rebuilding Hope and Homes program, The Home Depot, The Home Depot Foundation and its suppliers have committed more than $11.5 million in cash and materials to all phases of the relief, response and rebuilding efforts.
KaBOOM! and Playworld Systems have been partners since 2000. As part of the Gulf initiative, Playworld Systems is donating all the playground and LifeTrail equipment for each of the 10 builds and working with The Home Depot, KaBOOM! and Hands on Network to build the structures. The recreational equipment will be different at each site based upon the designs developed by local children and residents.
"Recreation is a vital element to people of all ages and we are dedicated to helping those affected by this disaster restore some sort of normalcy to their lives and their communities," said Matt Miller, president of Playworld Systems. "We have been down to several of the build sites and have witnessed the devastation first hand. These communities need all the help they can get and Playworld is proud to be part of this effort."
Hands On Network is a network of 58 nonprofit organizations around the world that inspire volunteers, create leaders, and change lives and communities through effective volunteer action. Immediately after the storms, Hands On Network established Hands On Action Centers in New Orleans and Biloxi to help with disaster recovery and are now helping organize long term rebuilding efforts in the areas.
More information on the anniversary week projects and Operation Playground is available at www.kaboom.org.