State of the art playground equipment coming to Boys and Girls Club

Published 6:35 am Saturday, August 5, 2023

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By Clark Curtis, For the Washington Daily News

After 30 years of use by multiple generations of young children, the playground equipment at the Boys and Girls Clubs Coastal Plain, Washington Unit, had to be decommissioned because of safety concerns. “It just got to the point where it was unsafe for the children to be playing on the equipment,” said Mark Holtzman, CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs Coastal Plain. “There was equipment that was either broken or missing, rusted, and had sharp edges exposed. We simply could no longer allow the children to play on it. There is nothing sadder than looking at a playground that can’t be used.”

Faced with the dilemma, Holtzman and Washington Unit director, Janée Johnson, walked the property to evaluate the situation. They both came to the obvious conclusion that the playground equipment would have to be replaced, because it was such a vital part of the club and its work. Call it the stars aligning or whatever you like, it was at that same time that Holtzman received an email from Kaboom, a national nonprofit committed to ending play space inequity. “The only reason I responded to the email, was because of our situation,” said Holtzman. “I called them back to see if this was some sort of a scam, and it was not. After looking into it a bit further we learned that 15 years ago one of our organizations had done a project with Kaboom. This led to a virtual call with them to decide which of our clubs would be the best fit. We narrowed it down to two locations and determined Washington was our highest need and priority.”

Playgrounds such as these can cost upwards of $70,000. To make it happen the Boys and Girls Club had to come up with matching funds of $8,500. “I literally made one call to a local Washington native,” said Holtzman. “They told me,” “I will back the project, so move forward with it.”

With that it has been full steam ahead on the collaborative effort with Kaboom and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina, which have included community and organizing calls for the three day playground build in September. “We also had a design day in which Jake Readinger from Kaboom came to Washington,” said Johnson. “The kids were given the opportunity to draw their concepts of their ideal playground. Getting their input was so unique and beneficial to them, as something like that had never been done before at this facility. For them to be able to sit on a swing or slide down a slide knowing that they had a hand in its design is pretty awesome, and assists with their overall mental health. Community leaders such as Mayor Sadler, police chief Rollinson, along with parents, and volunteers, also provided input into the design.”

As Holtzman pointed out the project is more than just the new playground equipment. “Kaboom asked to look at the whole space in our backyard and see what we could imagine. We envisioned a community project to expand our small community garden by building more planter boxes, benches around some of the trees, some new paint for our shed and our picnic tables, new basketball goals, and even an outdoor classroom space.”

Added Johnson, “Local artist Yvonne Curtis will also be working with our students who will design and paint murals on both the front and back of the building.”

The three day playground build will take place September 20-22. The first two days will be prep days in which the trucks will be unloaded and getting everything ready to go. The third day is when the actual build will take place. “In a matter of six hours the now vacant space will have been converted into a brand new playground, “said Readinger. “It is so exciting to have this opportunity in Washington. It has been awesome working with city and community leaders, volunteers, and of course the kids. This is not just a playground, but a celebration of a huge event and acknowledging everything that is being accomplished. We hope this is not the end, but a springboard for what community action is able to do and accomplish.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has been partnering with Kaboom since 2009. The build in Washington will mark its 15th playground project with Kaboom in North Carolina. It is anticipated that over 100 Blue Cross & Blue Shield volunteers will be bused to Washington from Raleigh on the build day, September, 22nd. “We share Kabooms’ passion for the need for safe, secure, and inclusive play areas for our kids across the state,” said Kelly Calabria, senior vice president of marketing and corporate social responsibility for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina. “We are very excited to be able to participate in this project. We saw the need based on what the Boys and Girls Club shared with us and the hundreds of children they serve in Beaufort County. The playground will not only fulfill an immediate need, but over time, it will serve as a community place and be a point of pride. Something that the kids can really get excited about.”

Looking ahead to September, Holtzman can’t wait to see the final product. “We are an afterschool space where parents expect us to help their kids have good character, get their homework done, get a good meal in their bellies, and provide them a safe space for structured play with other kids, where they can learn learn to interact, and just be kids having fun. This playground brings that all together. Through possibility and imagination, we are going to have a pretty special place back there for these kids.”

Volunteers are still needed for the three day event. For more information contact Janée Johnson at or 252-355-2345 Ext. 8321. Or go to to register online.