They did it in Macon, Ga., and you can, too
Each year before the AAOS Annual Meeting, Academy fellows join community organizers and industry representatives in building a legacy to the meeting’s host city. Although a playground build is a major undertaking, it is well within the ability of a state or local coalition—as the citizens of Macon, Ga., proved.
Until recently, Macon’s physically challenged children and their parents had to travel an hour and a half to Atlanta to reach a playground that met the children’s special needs. But now, children of all physical abilities play side by side at the town’s new, handicapped-accessible playground.
From dream to reality
In July 2006, when Frank B. Kelly, MD, was president of the Bibb County (Georgia) Medical Society, he attended a seminar about organizing a community playground build presented by KaBOOM!, the company that helps the AAOS build playgrounds during its Annual Meetings. At the seminar, Dr. Kelly happened to meet Wendy Boston and Donna Jennings of the nonprofit Junior League of Macon, who were also investigating building a playground in Macon.
“After talking for awhile, we decided that the medical society and the Junior League would be a lot stronger if we joined forces, rather than doing separate projects,” recalls Dr. Kelly.
The Junior League had already begun preliminary discussions with another local nonprofit agency, NewTown Macon, to secure a playground site. NewTown Macon quickly agreed to set aside a portion of its Water Works Park project—an area the group is currently developing as a recreational area for Macon residents.
“It was a perfect storm in that all three groups came together at the same time with one purpose in mind,” says Dr. Kelly.
Raising money—and recruiting volunteers
As members of the medical society and the Junior League began meeting monthly to lay the groundwork for the playground build, fundraising for the project went into full swing.
Dr. Kelly and Seth Bush, MD, a local pediatrician who served as a co-chair for the project, secured an $80,000 grant from the Peyton Anderson Foundation, a local charitable organization. Additional donations poured in from the Georgia Orthopaedic Society, which made a significant contribution, as well as from local physicians, businesses, and other members of the community. The sale of commemorative bricks to be installed at the build site also helped raise funds.
Local media coverage—including a press conference, segments on television and radio stations, and several newspaper articles—also encouraged people to donate and helped attract volunteers for the build day.
A total of $240,000 was raised for the project, and 250 people signed up to help construct the playground.
When it rains, it really pours—but not for long
On build day—April 5, 2008—dangerous weather conditions quickly halted construction just a half hour after it began.
“KaBOOM! has hardly ever had to cancel a build day—if it’s raining a little, they build right though it,” says Dr. Kelly, with a laugh. “But the rain was just torrential.”
Early the next morning, around 150 volunteers, including local orthopaedic surgeons, other physicians, and many community members began constructing the playground. They built a modified swing that children in wheelchairs can use. Volunteers also constructed climbing bars, a triple slide, and swings equipped with safety belts. Special ramps and a rubberized surface were installed to make it easier for children in wheelchairs to move around. In addition, a grant from the American Academy of Dermatology enabled the purchase of shade huts to provide shelter from the sun.
Along with installing the playground equipment, volunteers also worked on the landscaping and built picnic tables and benches.
Guy D. Foulkes, MD, an orthopaedist who practices in Macon, supervised a portion of the project as a “build captain.”
“I enjoyed the playground build because it was something that my whole family could do together,” said Dr. Foulkes. “In addition, it was fun because physicians and surgeons of various specialties had the opportunity to work together. For example, I saw two heart surgeons and a neurologist building benches.”
What a community can accomplish
“It was really special to see so many people out there on build day—people from all walks of life and from all parts of the city working together. Everybody was so enthusiastic and energized,” says Dr. Kelly.
Most importantly, he says, the playground is already making a huge difference in the lives of children with disabilities and their families in Macon.
“Now there’s an accessible playground 10 minutes from their homes that’s as good as any in the country,” says Dr. Kelly.
Jennie McKee is a staff writer for AAOS Now. She can be reached at email@example.com