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June 30th, 2008
12:06 PM ET

A place to play... Built!

By Matt Sloane
CNN Fit Nation Producer

As I mentioned a couple of months ago (Full Story), there was a storm brewing on the Louisiana Gulf Coast over the weekend – a storm of volunteers, that is, ready to build an amazing new playground in just six hours.

Pontiff Playground at 9 am

Pontiff Playground at 9 am

When we first arrived at Pontiff Playground in Metairie on Saturday morning, I still didn't believe it was possible.  There was 200 cubic yards of mulch sitting in the parking lot - it stood about 20 feet tall - 10 tons of concrete waiting to be mixed by hand, and a TON of playground equipment sitting in boxes and bubble wrap.  That was at 8:30 a.m.

Mulch Mountain at Pontiff Playground

"Mulch Mountain" around 10 am

By 2:30 p.m., I was absolutely proved wrong (Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's report from Metairie here).  Children who still remember what the park looked like under 5 feet of water after Hurricane Katrina were painting hopscotch on the sidewalks, making tile mosaics and working on a huge mural.  In those same six hours, 250 adult volunteers managed to install a 9-foot-high tube slide, a rock-climbing wall, a sandbox with dinosaur bones at the bottom ready to be "discovered," a 90-foot walking path, a handicap-accessible playhouse and scores of other playthings. 

250 volunteers completed the new Pontiff Playground around 2:30 pm

A park had been reborn, and a dream that started with crayons and a piece of paper just two months earlier became a reality.

For me, it was more than just a service project.  It was the culmination of an eight-month-long process to bring KaBOOM! on as a new partner in the CNN Fit Nation fight against childhood obesity.  It was an important step in our efforts to make a difference at the community level.

How have you been a force for change in terms of health and fitness?  Have you ever been involved in a KaBOOM! project?  If so, we'd love to hear about it!

If you want to help KaBOOM! reach its dream of building a playspace within walking distance of every child in America, go to www.Kaboom.org

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soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Jamie

    I had such a good time helping build the park. It was so much fun and I think everything came out great.

    June 30, 2008 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Melissa Brewer

    This was a great event and well worth the time and effort for the children!

    June 30, 2008 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Janice McAlister

    Hey Matt! Just wanted to drop a line to say "THANK YOU" for allowing me and Jim to be a part of the playground build in New Orleans. Even though we are avid volunteers here at home (Lake Worth, FL), it usually doesn't require much muscle (just time and brains). As we are also victims of hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma, we were extremely fortunate to not have the horrific aftermath of broken levies to contend with. As we sat in our cozy livingroom completely appalled at what was happening in NOLA, our hearts ached and were heavily burdened by what we saw on the CNN footage shot and televised. We wanted to do something to make a difference to these people, especially the children. You gave us that opportunity and for that we will be forever indebted. May God bless you richly for the work that you have done for this nation's children and the heart that you have shown by your willingness to be so SELFLESS!

    June 30, 2008 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lori Tucker

    Thanks for letting me be a part of this wonderful project! I was so impressed at the organization of the whole thing. As a teacher of young children, I understand the importance of establishing an active lifestyle at an early age. Please let your family and friends know about this incredible place to take their children to. Hopefully, they will be inspired to "spruce up" their neighborhood or school playground or even their own backyard!

    July 1, 2008 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ela

      Can't lie, I broke down! I love what you did here. Reminded me of lots of fresh emotions from my own ganmdra. My heart breaks for you guys, but at least we know we'll see them again someday! Take care Jill.

      April 9, 2012 at 05:02 | Report abuse |
  5. Lisa Kennedy

    I helped build a KaBOOM! Playground at the International School of Louisiana in New Orleans and the kids absolutely LOVE it! It was a very rewarding experience for me and the other volunteers. I can't wait to go check out the new KaBOOM! Playground at Pontiff Playground. I would like to express my sinsere thanks for all of the volunteers that help build KaBOOM! Playgrounds.

    July 2, 2008 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Bella

    what an organization kaboom is–very powerful!

    July 4, 2008 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Baba

    That is such a beautiful iburtte to your Grandma!! It was straight from your heart. Chris and I enjoyed the pictures and the memories (especially Chris). To be able to have such a special relationship with your Grandmother is truly a gift that you will carry through your whole life and through the lives of your children.

    April 8, 2012 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.