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September 3rd, 2008
01:57 PM ET

Checking on an old friend after the storm

By Matt Sloane
CNN Medical Producer

As I approached the dividing line between Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish, a huge stack of sandbags lay across the road. We'd heard reports that Jefferson Parish fared worse than downtown New Orleans during the storm, but I wasn't sure what to expect. Would there be flooding on the other side?

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Sand bags lay across the street at the entrance to Jefferson Parish

Luckily, the barriers were just there as a precaution. The engineers let me cross the dividing line but warned, "Once you're in, you're on your own if you get caught." I went anyway because there was something very important on the other side - the playground just built for the community of Metairie. It was the culmination of an eight-month-effort 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.

There were some downed trees, power lines and road signs on the way in, but the playground was still standing. Good thing, because this was more than just any old playground. It was a symbol of rebirth after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. It was a place for community residents to gather and work together, and most importantly, it was, and still is, a place for the kids to play.

Play can be such an important tool in helping to heal the wounds of trauma. In this case, getting the kids to draw what their dream playground would look like allowed them to take their minds off the scars left by Katrina and let their imaginations run wild. Even cooler was seeing the kids watch their dreams became a reality in just six hours.

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Debris was scattered around the playground at Pontiff Park, but it stayed in tact

Just two months later, the thought of those dreams being crushed, again, was unbearable. Yes, it did look like a hurricane had come through. There were a few branches in the sandbox, some of the paint came off the hopscotch court and there were a few puddles of water. But the few scars left behind by Gustav do nothing to harm the progress made by rebuilding Pontiff Park. The community still has its park. The parents still have their symbol of rebirth, and more importantly, the kids still have a place where they can let loose and just be kids!

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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.

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