An extreme makeover of the playful kind
For five consecutive years, Bloomington, Minn.-based Toro Co., The Minnesota Vikings and Washington-based non-profit playground builder KaBOOM! have teamed up to build new playgrounds for Minneapolis communities in need of a fun and safe outdoor play environment. This year, on June 4, more than 250 volunteers from participating organizations and the community constructed a contemporary playground at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School in North Minneapolis during a one-day build event.
The playground features brightly colored slides, a giant tire swing and many other student-inspired elements. The design was chosen based on input from the children, who drew their dream playgrounds for planners at a Design Day in March. “For the community, this is a great event where local organizations partner with area residents to have a lasting impact on our youth,” said Judson McNeil, president of The Toro Foundation. “Promoting healthy activities on the playground is an extension of the classroom and important for quality education.”
KaBOOM! aims to improve play throughout America by supplying new playground equipment to disadvantaged areas. Toro contributed to half the cost of the playground, and many build-day supplies were donated by community businesses. The YMCA Beacons program also participated in the event. The program serves more than 2,500 students and families in North, Northeast, and South Minneapolis areas by providing students with after-school and summer development programming in a safe atmosphere.
“This whole process started about two months ago with Toro and their direct interaction with the students on the planning day,” says Mark Bonine, principal at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School. “Toro was there every step of the way, and every employee showed how dedicated they were to community involvement. You could tell how excited they [Toro employees] were to be there.”
The build day began with opening remarks at 8:30 a.m. followed by a quick stretch with Vikings cheerleaders. Then the build began with all volunteers working until around noon, at which time the Vikings players, coaches and staff arrived to help put the finishing touches on the playground and interact with students. When construction was complete, the students came out to see their new playground and take part in the student-made ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The build is intended to teach students what they can accomplish through hard work and by working with the community. Toro, the Vikings and KaBOOM! engaged the students throughout the community beautification project — one in which they will benefit long after their graduation date. “Something like this playground is going to be part of this community for years to come,” said Vikings’ middle linebacker E.J. Henderson.