City awarded for growing development for play sites

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As a national expert on play, Darell Hammond has seen plenty of fun and whimsy in what cities have to offer, from hopscotch-painted sidewalks in Baltimore to swings in bus shelters in Montreal.

Mr. Hammond, founder of the nonprofit playground building organization KaBOOM!, is working to spread play beyond playgrounds.

"Literally, we want to see the whole town as a playground," he said. "We'll start to reverse this trend of not seeing family-friendly cities."

In partnership with the Humana Foundation, KaBOOM! last week chose Pittsburgh as one of 212 cities to receive a Playful City USA award. Mr. Hammond is in Pittsburgh today meeting with corporate and foundation partners to encourage further development.

Pittsburgh was recognized for its plan to consider play in every educational and community decision that is made. This is the fourth time the city has received a Playful City USA award.

"Pittsburgh is on the forefront of thinking about not just new urbanism but how do we get families to come back to communities so that they can thrive," Mr. Hammond said.

Other cities receiving awards include Chicago, for its commitment that every child be within a seven-minute walk of a new park or playground, and San Antonio, for its efforts to open school play spaces outside of school hours.

Mr. Hammond founded KaBOOM! in 1995 after reading about two children in Washington, D.C., who suffocated while playing in an abandoned car.

The group built its first playground in that city in 1995, and has helped build more than 2,000 playgrounds since.

KaBOOM! builds playgrounds through community involvement. The process starts when children sketch out their ideas for the playground and ends with volunteers building it.

Last year, the Heinz Endowments gave $800,000 to KaBOOM! for the construction of 10 playgrounds in the Pittsburgh region.

Mr. Hammond specifically pointed to the Lozziwurm, a plastic play structure outside the Carnegie Museum of Art that was installed as part of the Carnegie International, as an example of a unique structure contributing to the spirit of play.


Anya Sostek: asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.

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