Tony Rankin, MD; Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD; and Frank B. Kelly, MD, were among the volunteers at the 2008 Playground Build in Balboa Park.


Published 4/1/2008
Jennie McKee

Another playground springs up in San Francisco

2008 AAOS playground is third in area

Hundreds of volunteers worked in pleasantly cool, sunny weather at San Francisco’s Balboa Park on Tuesday, March 4—the day before the 75th AAOS Annual Meeting began—to help build a safe, accessible playground. In the approximately 7 hours it took to complete the project, the group also raked, painted, shoveled, and otherwise refurbished and beautified the area surrounding the playground site.

AAOS partnered with the Friends of Balboa Park and the Neighborhood Parks Department, and received help from San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department as well as the City of San Francisco. The event marked the ninth time the AAOS has worked with KaBOOM!, a national, nonprofit organization that brings businesses and community groups together to develop playgrounds that are accessible to children of all physical abilities.

From dream to reality
Planning for the playground build began in November 2007, when AAOS sponsored a Design Day so that local children could draw their “dream” place to play. One of the children’s designs was chosen as the model for the playground.

At 8:30 a.m., KaBOOM! Project Manager Jennifer DeMelo gathered the volunteers together and introduced the AAOS team leaders, all of whom wore whimsical accessories—think Elvis hair, a pirate hat, and a clown wig—to make them easy to identify in the crowd. After the enthusiastic team leaders burst through a paper banner that read “Let’s Build a Playground!”, the teams assembled and started their assignments.

Hard work makes for fun in the sun
Hundreds of orthopaedic surgeons, as well as a group of 20 members of the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, several industry representatives, and even an international participant—Liz Van Der Jagt, wife of South African Orthopaedic Association President Dick Ronald Van Der Jagt, MD—were among the builders.

Alan M. Levine, MD, a playground build veteran, participates in the projects year after year because he believes they’re an integral part of the Academy’s mission.

“I think it’s very important for the Academy to focus not only on treating injuries, but also on injury prevention,” said Dr. Levine. “If we can show the way by providing safe places for kids to play, then we ought to do it.”

Volunteers worked to the beat of music played by a DJ and were cheered on by Lou Seal, the mascot of the San Francisco Giants. A clown making balloon animals and an accordion player dressed like a mime added to the fun atmosphere.

In what many thought was record time, a brand-new, colorful playground sat atop the concrete slab that the Recreation and Park Department had prepared in advance. The largest piece of equipment boasts rock walls and climbing nets, two slides, a bridge, an alphabet board translated into sign language, and a wheelchair-accessible ramp. The new playground also has a swing set, a jungle gym with plastic letters on its side to help children learn their ABCs, and a mini yellow school bus that KaBOOM! staff affectionately referred to as “Bernice the Bus.” Rubber poured over the playground’s concrete surface will help keep the children safe when they play.

Much more than just construction work
Volunteers contributed their talents in many ways other than tightening bolts and drilling holes to build equipment. Those with artistic talents painted a beautiful mural of birds, butterflies, lizards, and other wildlife on a brick building next to the playground. Teams also beautified two nearby baseball fields by painting the bleachers and dugouts and spreading and raking the infield clay. Other volunteers planted a garden and trees, cleared brush, and did additional clean-up work.

A group of local children from nearby Mount Carmel School arrived at 9:30 a.m. to put their personal touch on the playground by painting ceramic tiles with bold colors and creative designs. Just before the build was complete, the tiles were hung on the fence that surrounds the playground.

The beauty of giving back
At the ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony that took place at 3:30 p.m., AAOS 2007 First Vice President Tony Rankin, MD, emphasized the importance of the Academy’s efforts to help enhance a community before every AAOS Annual Meeting.

“We’re here today to remind ourselves that not only is it important to care for children’s muscles, bones, and joints, but that we can also make a difference in other ways that enrich our patients’ lives,” said Dr. Rankin. “The AAOS helped to build this playground for the Balboa Park District’s families and children so that they would have a place to play that is safe and accessible. It’s a playground where all children can play together regardless of ability.

“These events really show the effort of orthopaedic surgeons and their families, industry, and the community working with us,” added Dr. Rankin. “They are great, collaborative efforts.”

Jennie McKee is a staff writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at