How to build a playground in a day.

Mission Statement from

KaBOOM! is a national non-profit dedicated to saving play for America’s children.

Our 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.


I heard about this group a few years ago and thought it seemed like such a cool idea. Last spring, my local elementary school’s application for a new playground was approved. As a member of the neighborhood, I was given the opportunity to participate in building a playground with Kaboom.

My wife attended an introductory meeting with a representative from Kaboom, the school principal and a few other parent volunteers. At this meeting, my wonderful wife Amanda was nice enough to volunteer me to be a team captain on build day (more about that later).

Two months before build day, students, parents, friends and neighbors were invited to Playground Design Day at the school. When we arrived, my kids were given a blank paper with a box of crayons and told to design their dream playground. After the kids shared their designs (I think one design even had a moat and a drawbridge), it was time for the adults to choose the playground equipment. Kaboom had spread out pictures of dozens and dozens of pieces of playground equipment. There were pictures of single, double and triple slides. There were balance beams, rock climbing walls, monkey bars, the list went on and on. Parents tagged each piece of equipment they liked and that was it. With the exception of one heated argument about whether or not to include a fire pole, that was how the playground was designed.

Each week leading up to “build day” there was a conference call with all the captains and the Kaboom people . During these calls, each person would update the group on preparations for build day and what they would work on next. These people knew what they were doing. I guess when you’ve built over 2,000 playgrounds, you start to get the hang of it.

On build day eve, Kaboom sent in a handful of employees to install a few major structural pieces. My guess is that they didn’t want volunteers to be in charge of securing the play structure to the ground. Probably a wise decision.

Build day finally arrived. As I walked over to the school, I had no idea what to expect. I arrived to the sounds of a DJ playing music on a flat bed truck. I noticed more than 50 large boxes with unassembled pieces of playground equipment in them. I saw endless pallets of quik-krete waiting to be mixed. In one corner there were large piles of Trex “lumber” that would become benches and tables. Finally I noticed something so big that it nearly cast a shadow over the playground. The contents of the monstrous pile? A two-story tall, thirty foot wide heap of mulch.

My typical optimism was instantly challenged. There was NO WAY the playground could be completed in just one day. It took 250 volunteers eight hours and countless drops of sweat, but the mission was accomplished. Every bolt on each piece of equipment was tightened. Benches were assembled and secured to the ground with cement. And yes, one wheel barrow at a time, every piece of mulch was moved to the proper location.

Thanks to Kaboom, a caring school district, and a couple hundred volunteers, the children in my neighborhood have a great place to play.

In case you were wondering, the fire pole was not put on the playground.


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