Forest Hills playground raised in one day
by Chase Collum
Jun 04, 2014 | 766 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Warner Music and Kaboom team up with FH community to build a new playground
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Rome wasn’t built in a day, but last week at the Central Queens YM-YWHA in Forest Hills, a massive, multi-level playground was built in just a few hours.

The project was made possible through a grant provided by Kaboom and funded by the Warner Bros. Music Group. Jeri Mendelsohn, executive vice president and CEO of the Central Queens Y, said that this project is one that has been a long time coming.

“We had a very aging structure on our roof playground, and we had been given an opportunity for a new roof with the wonderful help of Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, and we got a grant for the reconstruction of our nursery school classrooms from State Senator Toby Stavisky, but did not have a play structure, so we began hunting for ways we could access for our children the necessary play structure,” Mendelsohn said.

After hearing about Kaboom’s role in the renovation of a playground in Jamaica, Mendelsohn and company approached them with a grant proposal, which was quickly approved.

“We wrote a grant for Kaboom that would include all children of all developmental levels including disabilities,” Mendelsohn said. “Kaboom then responded and Warner Music decided to do it,”

While DJ OUss OUss (aka Oussama Terrab) provided a mix of motivational music, dozens of volunteers swarmed the yard, halls and cafeteria of the Y, with several projects being led by 23 Kaboom project managers.

In the side yard, volunteers built park benches, tables and art easels. On the roof, a new fence was being built around a play structure to replace the old playground that was hopelessly out of date.

In the cafeteria, a crew of artists painted a mural to be displayed near the playground. And in the back, groups of four and five hauled tarps full of woodchips into the area surrounding the ground level play structure being built out by people from all walks of life.

“There are social workers out here with drills,” Mendelsohn commented.

Evan Mynatt, a project manager with Kaboom, said that the 18-year-old organization is aimed at advocating for the millions of children who do not have equal access to play in the U.S. Through collaboration with big budget companies like Warner Music Group, Kaboom is able to lead builds all over the country.

“Our job is really to find viable communities who have a need for a playground and can facilitate a community-led build,” Mynatt said. “We contacted the Central Queens Y, and they had both the need and the support.”

Through the process, Kaboom came to the Y and allowed the children who will be using the park to play a part in the design process, Mynatt explained.

“Kids design their dream playground, and we take all of those as adults who can scale down the huge twenty-foot slides and take the themes of those designs and turn them into actual playgrounds.”

Mynatt added that the playgrounds installed by Kaboom are completely unique, and made possible by their partnership with Playworld Systems.

Paul Robinson, general counsel for Warner Music Group, said that his organization has been working with Kaboom since 2008, when they completed a playground build in Jamaica.

“We always like to give back to the community, but we thought Kaboom was an especially great thing because they make something permanent in a day and have so many people from the company participate,” Robinson said.

Robinson explained that a large part of the fundraising for the project comes from employee contributions.

“Every year, several times a year, we sell Warner merchandise to employees,” Robinson said. “They buy shirts and records and things, and we raise tens of thousands of dollars to put this project together.”

“I must have nine parents down here from my class alone,” said Shelley Ohlberg, a teacher in the Y’s preschool program with 20 years of tenure. Her colleague Leslie Siegel added, “I think of all my years being here, this is the most phenomenal day ever.”

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