KaBOOM! looking for future designers

Published 8:37 pm Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kids’ input wanted for new Belhaven playground

BELHAVEN — Local kids are being issued a special invitation: to design their dream playground in Belhaven.

The national nonprofit KaBOOM! has selected the corner of Railroad and Bay streets as the site of the new playground. Now, they’re seeking design ideas from the children who will be using it.

Tuesday, Aug. 20, kids ages 5 through 12 are invited to the Belhaven Boys & Girls Club to sketch out their dream playground from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. A KaBOOM! representative will take the collected sketches back to Washington, D.C., where they will be given to the organization’s playground designers and used to inform three designs, according to Lisa Woolard, an organizer for the project. One of those designs will be chosen as Belhaven’s next playground.

“We need to the public to bring us some kids for design day,” Woolard said. “It’s going to be really cool. I can’t wait to see how this all comes together.”

The project is a partnership between the Town of Belhaven, KaBOOM! and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust’s Healthy Places NC initiative, but it’s the eight Belhaven churches, Belhaven-Pantego Rotary, the town’s Chamber of Commerce and the Belhaven Alumni Association that have all been laying the groundwork, forming the “Team Coalition” that will provide half the money and all of the volunteers needed to plan, raise funds for, and actually build the new playground in a single day — Oct. 26, Woolard said.

“We only have eight weeks,” Woolard laughed. “We have to have it all put together by then.”

That means the Team Coalition needs 20 to 30 children to provide ideas, volunteers to be a part of the planning committee that will whittle down the kids’ ideas to present to KaBOOM!, fundraisers, lot clearers, food providers and those who want to get “hands on” and physically pitch in to build the playground itself.

“We need 200 volunteers. We’ll need a crew to do some site preparation work the Thursday before,” Woolard explained. “On that Saturday (Oct. 26), we’re going to need all kinds of help … We have six hours to build a playground. In six hours, we’re going to have a playground and we’re going to have a ribbon cutting … Even if you can’t swing a hammer, if you can cook or deliver water, there will be a job for you.”

Though it may seem unlikely a playground could go up so fast, KaBOOM! has proven it can be done. According to KaBOOM.org, the organization has built, opened or improved 15,414 playgrounds across the U.S. — part of its mission to create great places to play within walking distance of every child in America.

“Today’s kids spend less time playing outside than any previous generation in part because only 1-in-5 children live within walking distance of a park or playground,” according to a KaBOOM! press release. “This play deficit is having profound consequences for kids physically, emotionally and cognitively. Children need a place to play every day in order to be active and healthy, something KaBOOM! has been committed to since 1996.”

The new playground will provide 300 children in Belhaven and its surrounding areas a safe, and convenient, place to play. The 2,500 square foot playground will be located in the middle of the town’s recreational ball fields, so kids can play there while others play ball, Woolard said.

“We’d really like to make that area more park-like, with walking paths and things like that,” Woolard said. “This will be the first big project in that direction.”

The first big project will take the efforts of many people, which is why the Team Coalition chose Oct. 26 as the playground’s build day.

“It’s Make A Difference Day,” Woolard said. “So if people are looking for a way to make a difference this year, they can come help us.”

Make a Difference Day is a nationally recognized day of community service.

For more information about, or to volunteer to help with, Belhaven’s KaBOOM! playground, contact Lisa Woolard at 252-945-3156, or email lisa@beaufortcountykids.org. The Belhaven Boys & Girls Club is located at 225 W. Pantego St., Belhaven. Children are not required to register to attend design day.