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Making a Difference, One Playground at a Time

by Patricia Bory

In just six short hours, a group of 500 volunteers built a state-of-the-art playground for students of the Hyde Leadership Public Charter School in Washington D.C. on Saturday October 23, part of a nationwide celebration of Make a Difference Day.

"This is a powerful example of what happens when people come together to solve problems," said Patrick A. Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Corvington served alongside cabinet secretaries, White House fellows, students, parents, AmeriCorps members, and three dozen Corporation staff to transform an open field into a brand new playground complete with an outdoor stage, benches, vegetable garden and picnic tables.

The playground build was organized by KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that has built 1,894 playgrounds nationwide since its founding 15 years ago. KaBOOM! envisions a future with a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

The day kicked off with a rousing pep rally from top Administration officials. "My goal is not just to make sure that every school has a playground but that every neighborhood has a playground," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "We don't just need playgrounds, we need sidewalks and paths to help families reach those playgrounds," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Education Secretary Arne Duncan added, "Every school needs a cafeteria serving healthy food and a playground where kids can get active." Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered sage advice: "Eat right; play hard and you'll live a long life."

The build effort got a big boost from a team of AmeriCorps NCCC members from Perry Point MD, who led many of the day’s projects. AmeriCorps members serving with Playworks kept younger children active with a series of games. Playworks is a national nonprofit that provides safe, healthy, inclusive play and physical activity to schools at recess and throughout the entire school day.

The playground build was one of thousands of projects taking place as part of the 20th Make A Difference Day, sponsored by USA WEEKEND Magazine, in partnership with HandsOn Network and Newman’s Own.

After six hours of hard work, students, parents, and volunteers gathered under the warm afternoon sun. A Hyde student choir sang, the ribbon was cut and a shout of joy rose from the crowd as they looked at their work. Dusty and tired, the volunteers walked away with the profound sense of joy and pride that comes from making a difference.

Patricia Bory is the Project Manager for Special Initiatives at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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