AAOS Now

Published 3/1/2007
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Peter Pollack

2007 Playground Build attracts volunteers, celebrities

On February 13, 2007, hundreds of volunteers from the AAOS, allied health fields, orthopaedic industry, the military, and the local neighborhood arrived at Eucalyptus Park in Chula Vista, Calif., to take part in the 2007 AAOS Playground Build.

Sponsored each year by the AAOS in conjunction with the Annual Meeting, the playground is a tangible “thank you” to the host city—an empty lot or decrepit park transformed into a modern, safe, and accessible playground for children of all abilities.

“Contagious,” said Jeff M. Smith, MD, of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, in describing the annual builds, which inspire surgeons to arrive a day early to paint, shovel dirt, and push wheelbarrows full of concrete. “I started [working on the playgrounds] three years ago, and each time I’m trying to get a little more involved because this is so much fun,” he said.

Children at the Chula Vista playground build enjoyed playing with the teddy bears donated by VQ Orthocare while construction continued. (Photo courtesy of Richard B. Ressman, MD)

“I think it’s a great thing to do,” agreed Timothy L. Beck, MD. “The kids are going to be able to enjoy it and have a safe place to play. It’s also nice to get out and work. We work inside almost every day, so it’s nice to get out and do a little physical activity.”

Of course, a worthwhile community project attracts attention from all quarters, and the 2007 build was no exception, with several celebrities showing up to support the crew. “This is really cool,” enthused Hall-of-Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn, “that people would take the time off from work to come and put a park together for kids. Dr. Jan [Jan Fronek, MD], who invited me to this, was probably the reason I played as long as I did. He’s done a lot for me in my career, so the least I could do is come out here and try to be a morale booster.”

Hall-of-Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn and James H. Beaty, MD, both pitched in at the playground build. (Photo courtesy of Richard B. Ressman, MD)

“To the doctors, we appreciate it,” announced San Diego Chargers wide receiver Kassim Osgood, making a presentation at the event. “You just might catch me out here every now and then, with all of my nieces and nephews.”

While Gwynn and Osgood spent much of their time on-site speaking to kids and signing autographs, two members of the six-time Grammy-nominated rock band P.O.D. arrived unannounced and quietly signed up to spend the entire day digging holes and bolting together swing sets.

“This is where we grew up, this is where we want our kids to grow up,” explained drummer “Wuv” Bernardo, who showed up with vocalist “Sonny” Sandoval. “My mom used to take me here all the time, so I’ve got a lot of history here at this park. This is a huge improvement. It’s awesome.”

By the 3:30 p.m. ribbon cutting, more than 600 adults had shown up to work on the playground. Some had dashed over with just a few hours open on their schedules, while others spent the entire day, but all would probably say the effort was worth it.

“This is an excellent opportunity for us to show the community what we can do; to make this available for the children of the area,” said AAOS First Vice-President E. Anthony Rankin, MD. “Particularly since this is an accessible playground. That’s especially important.”

“This was a park where people didn’t usually come,” explained Henry G. Chambers, MD, who helped to plan the Eucalyptus Park playground. “There wasn’t much going on, and I think this is really going to change this community.”