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D.A. Blodgett - St. John's has been building "homes and hope" for children since 1887. The nonprofit organization, which provides services such as adoption and foster care, has wanted a playground for years. They received a surprise earlier in the year when Amway nominated them for a KaBOOM! playground. With the help of Amway's One by One Campaign for Children and KaBOOM!, D.A. Blodgett - St. John's obtained a playground on June 8.
According to their website, Amway's One by One Campaign for Children launched in 2003 and "helps disadvantaged children around the world live, achieve, learn, and – of course – play." They have raised $141 million for children's causes worldwide and have helped eight million children. One of the ways Amway's One by One Campaign for Children helps kids is by their partnership with KaBOOM!
KaBOOM! Founder Darell Hammond unofficially began the non-profit organization in 1995 as a way to save play for America's children. KaBOOM!'s mission is "to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities. Ultimately, we envision a place to play within walking distance of every child in America." One of the ways KaBOOM! pursues its mission is by creating playgrounds. Amway partnered with them in 2007 and as of June 8 they built 10 playgrounds in Grand Rapids, such as one in the Creston neighborhood. The latest playground in Grand Rapids was for D.A. Blodgett.
A few months into the year, D.A. Blodgett had the chance for a playground build on their own campus. After hearing they were nominated for a playground, D.A. Blodgett - St. John's immediately applied.
"KaBOOM! talks about the physical help, the social development and even the cognitive aspects of unstructured play and the importance of playground," Director of Fund Development Jim Visser said. "So we jumped at it."
ST. Johns’ was awarded the playground when they found out Amway nominated them.
"We were completely surprised," said Visser. "It was a huge deal."
KaBOOM! Project Manager came to campus in April for a Design Day. He met with a group of children who created ideas of what they wanted in the playground. One child wanted a helio pad for his toy helicopter and another wanted the whole playground built around a dinosaur theme.
Three hundred people volunteered for the build and 200 of those were Amway volunteers. They started building at 9:00 a.m. and finished at 1:00 p.m.
The finished playground is nearly 3,000 square feet. In addition to the playground, several new picnic benches were added along with a large sandbox. KaBOOM! and the volunteers also built a low ropes course in a wooded area and a fire pit. An outdoor theatre was also built for educational enrichment activities.
Visser believes that this playground will definitely benefit D.A. Blodgett's - St. John's 50 - 60 residential kids.
"And all of these kids have suffered abuse and neglect and in some ways have lost aspects of their childhood," Visser said. "So we view this as a way to reclaim or recaptured their childhood so that when they come here, something as simply as a playground they really are having an opportunity to feel something since their trauma or neglect."