50th playground: Celebrating community, healthier futures – and the pure joy of play

A shared passion and commitment to help communities become stronger, healthier and happier led Humana and KaBOOM! to form a three-year partnership in 2011 that has resulted in 50 new playgrounds being built. The 50th playground was completed October 25 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and two more will be built in November as part of the 2014 fall playground tour.

The playgrounds, which feature traditional kid-friendly equipment as well as walking paths and fitness stations for adults, are built in only six hours by volunteers and create a space for families and communities to gather to enjoy fun, healthy activity.

The power of volunteerism and of communities working together for a better future is demonstrated at every playground build. Watch the video above and check out the articles below to learn more about the three-year partnership – and to catch a glimpse of the pure joy of play.

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Humana, KaBOOM! to build 8 more playgrounds this fall

Harrisburg Public Schools Foundation’s Karen Snider cuts the ribbon on a new multigenerational playground at Foose Elementary in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday September 20, 2014. (Photo by Marvin Hill)

Harrisburg Public Schools Foundation’s Karen Snider cuts the ribbon on a new multigenerational playground at Foose Elementary in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday September 20, 2014. (Photo by Marvin Hill)

Humana and nonprofit KaBOOM! launched their fourth fall playground tour on September 20 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The multigenerational playground in Harrisburg is the first of eight that will be built across the country in the next eight weeks. Humana, the Humana Foundation and KaBOOM! will have worked together to build more than 50 playgrounds by the end of 2014.

“These playgrounds allow us to promote healthy living in cities across the country. We are proud of our partnership with KaBOOM! and look forward to another successful season of builds,” said Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard. “It’s important to us to make it easy for people to achieve their best health – kids and adults alike.”

The playgrounds, which feature traditional kid-friendly equipment as well as walking paths and fitness stations for adults, are built in only six hours by volunteers and create a space for families and communities to gather to enjoy fun, healthy activity.

“The playground in my neighborhood has really improved the quality of life for many people who live at Gateway Park,” said Marcus French, a Gateway Park resident in Portland, Oregon, where Humana and KaBOOM! teamed up on a playground in the fall of 2012. “Now, everyone living at Gateway Park has a great place to gather together.”

In addition to Harrisburg, playgrounds will be built in the following cities this fall:

  • Mobile, Alabama on September 27
  • Jackson, Mississippi on October 4
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa on October 11
  • Kansas City, Missouri on October 18
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma on October 25
  • Tucson, Arizona on November 1
  •  Riverside, California on November 8

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Humana CEO joins President Obama, KaBOOM! for National Day of Service and Remembrance projects

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama joined KaBOOM!, Humana CEO Bruce Broussard and representatives from several national service organizations on September 11 in Washington, D.C. to commemorate this year’s National Day of Service and Remembrance by participating in projects focused on improving the health and well-being of children.

In addition to building a playground at The Inspired Teaching School in Washington, more than 300 KaBOOM! playpacks were assembled and will be donated to DC Homeless Children Playtime Project and Extraordinary Birthday Parties, local nonprofits that are dedicated to providing homeless children with more opportunities for play.

Broussard’s participation in the events resulted from Humana’s partnership with KaBOOM! to build dozens of playgrounds across the country in the last three years as part of its commitment to make it easier for the communities it serves to achieve better health and lifelong well-being. Humana will partner with KaBOOM! to build more playgrounds this fall.

For more information about Thursday’s events, visit the KaBOOM! website.

KaBOOM!, Humana Foundation unveil 2014 Playful City USA honorees

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The national nonprofit KaBOOM!, in partnership with the Humana Foundation, on Tuesday unveiled the 2014 Playful City USA honorees, 212 cities at the forefront of a “playability” movement. These cities, which recognize that an investment in play results in happier and healthier communities, are taking bold, innovative steps to ensure all children have easy access to a safe area to stay active and have fun.

Some of the cities and their family-focused playful initiatives are:

  • Washington, D.C.: Launched Play DC initiative to renovate and redefine all of the city’s playgrounds as community spaces where its underserved youth can use playful activity to reduce toxic stress.
  • Chicago: Created goal of ensuring every child living in the city is within a seven-minute walk of a park or playground
  • Missoula, Montana: Launching fun, creative programs, such as designating annual Play Day, a KidsFest celebration and youth summer camps.
  • San Antonio: Parks program turns elementary and middle school properties into playspaces outside school hours

More information about Playful City USA and a full list of 2014 honorees can be found by visiting www.playfulcityusa.org.

“We’re excited about our journey with KaBOOM! and we appreciate the shared values that Humana, the Humana Foundation and the KaBOOM! organization can rally around,” said Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard. “Making it easy for families to play, be healthy and thrive together is a part of Humana’s dream, and it’s a commitment that all of us at Humana enjoy sharing with KaBOOM!.”

A shared passion and commitment to help create happier, healthier communities led Humana and KaBOOM! to form a three-year partnership in 2011 that will result in 50 new playgrounds being built around the country. The Humana Foundation is also the lead sponsor of KaBOOM!’s Playful City USA Initiative.

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Humana CSR report celebrates achievements, announces new goals

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Humana’s new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report highlights the company’s unique commitment to helping people achieve lifelong well-being through its Healthy People, Healthy Planet, Healthy Performance CSR platform.

The report, released April 17, shares significant achievements including an 8 percent reduction in energy use, receiving LEED Commercial Interiors Certification at Humana offices in Tampa Bay, Fla., and launching a 150 data-point employee well-being scorecard.

It also showcases Humana’s commitment to promoting associate participation in a variety of volunteer opportunities, which support the company’s efforts to help its associates and the members and communities it serves live healthier lives.

Humana’s continuing efforts to promote lifelong well-being include examples such as:

  • Humana Helps, a program for people wanting to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and how to get covered, with partners including CVS/pharmacy and YMCA of the USA
  • HumanaVitality, an incentive-based wellness and rewards program that rewards healthy behaviors like preventative screenings, smoking cessation, exercise, and blood donation
  • Working with KaBOOM!, a nonprofit that helps to create safe and active play spaces for America’s children, to build more than 50 playgrounds in underserved neighborhoods by the end of 2014
  • The Humana Legacy Program, a partnership of the Humana Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana, to create an intergenerational mentoring program that pairs adults 55+ with children

The report looks ahead as well as taking a look back at achievements. For example, it acknowledges that climate change poses a serious challenge to the planet and impacts the health and well-being of those Humana serves. As a result, Humana has set goals it intends to accomplish by the end of 2015, including:

  • Reduce annual energy consumption by 5 percent;
  • Decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent; and
  • Increase landfill diversion to 40 percent of the waste stream

“At its core, our business is about partnering with people to help them achieve their best health. Inspiring health is one of our values,” said Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard. “This report illustrates how our CSR endeavors – from associate engagement to greenhouse gas emissions reductions – connect with Humana’s work to promote lifelong well-being. Our 2012-2013 CSR Report provides the foundation for us to take bigger, broader, more impactful actions going forward.”

To learn more about Humana’s Healthy People, Healthy Planet, Healthy Performance platform, check out the just-released 2012-2013 Humana Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

Golf fans step up to challenge, bring new playground to Florida community

Volunteers pose in front of the playground they built on April 12 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo Courtesy of KaBOOM!)

Volunteers pose in front of the playground they built on April 12 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo Courtesy of KaBOOM!)

By taking steps to improve their own health, golf fans at last year’s THE PLAYERS Championship won the 2013 Humana Walkit Challenge and helped make it possible for the residents of Sable Palms Apartments in Jacksonville, Fla., to enjoy a new multigenerational playground.

The community lacked a safe environment in which to gather with friends and family, exercise and have fun. That problem was solved April 12 when hundreds of volunteers built a community-designed playground in one day. The gathering space includes traditional kid-friendly playground equipment, a community garden and adult elements, such as fitness stations and walking paths.

The playground is the most recent of several built as part of a partnership between Humana, the Humana Foundation and KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring all children have the opportunity to have fun and enjoy the physical activity needed to thrive.

Joining the Humana Foundation and KaBOOM! as partners in Jacksonville were Community Connections of Jacksonville, Florida State College at Jacksonville and THE PLAYERS Championship.

The Jacksonville location was chosen after fans attending last year’s THE PLAYERS Championship won the 2013 Humana Walkit Challenge, a contest that inspired those attending PGA TOUR events across the country to walk, track their steps and win a playground for a local community. The nearly 14 million steps taken by fans at THE PLAYERS Championship won the contest – and the playground – for Jacksonville.

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Humana, KaBOOM! build playground with Texas community

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Humana, KaBOOM! and San Antonio residents worked together Thursday to build a multigenerational playground that will help connect a community as it learns how much fun getting healthier can be.

The playground, one of more than 50 that Humana and KaBOOM! will help build during a three-year partnership, was constructed in just a few hours by hundreds of volunteers at Brooks Park in San Antonio.

The new neighborhood resource is intended to inspire people of all ages to gather for picnics and other social events, get healthy and create memories. The playground, designed by local residents, includes adult-focused elements such as fitness stations and walking paths as well as traditional, kid-friendly equipment and play areas.

Humana has partnered with KaBOOM! to build playgrounds across the country as part of its commitment to make it easier for the communities it serves to achieve better health and lifelong well-being.

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Humana associate finds that when volunteers get together, ‘magic happens’

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Audrey Tillman is a Humana Beginnings nurse based in Johnson City, Tennessee. Earlier this year, she won the Humana Volunteer Challenge, a contest sponsored by the Humana Foundation that gave her the chance to support charitable organizations in two Humana communities.

Here’s Audrey’s story in her own words:

One of my favorite aspects of working at Humana is the variety of opportunities Humana provides associates to make a difference in our communities. I’ve had two opportunities recently that have been tremendously meaningful for me and wanted to share them.

Last spring, the Humana Foundation held a drawing as part of the Humana Volunteer Challenge in which the winner would be able to direct a $2,000 Humana Foundation grant to the charitable organization of their choice, and also win a trip to the site of an upcoming KaBOOM! playground build. To my surprise and delight, my name was drawn. I thought about where I wanted to direct the donation.

When I lived in Louisiana, I volunteered at St. Joseph Hospice in Baton Rouge. I sat with patients, worked the front desk and provided support to families. It thrilled me to be able to ask the Humana Foundation to give the $2,000 grant to St. Joseph Hospice to support the work they do.

For the KaBOOM! trip, I selected a build that was scheduled to take place at the Susan B. Anthony Residential Treatment Center in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Susan B. Anthony is a center for women, and the families of women, who need treatment for drug and alcohol addiction or who have ongoing mental health issues. I wanted to go there in part because of the center’s focus on helping women and children, which felt like an extension of my work with Humana Beginnings.

I have to admit that when I arrived the morning of the build and saw the task at hand, I was thinking, “How in the world are we going to do this in one day?” The site was just an empty field.

But when a group of volunteers gets together, magic happens. We worked with Humana volunteers, residents, family members of residents, volunteers from the community and the KaBOOM! project coordinators. It was incredible. We completed the build in eight hours.

By the end of the day, I was tired, but it was a good kind of tired, the kind that goes along with accomplishing something. It was worth the effort a million times over to see the children who’ll be using the playground. Their eyes were so big and their smiles so wide! They even did a thank-you dance for the volunteers, which was so adorable.

I just want to express my own gratitude to the Humana Foundation for my experience, which is one of the highlights of my life. I also want to show my appreciation to everyone at Humana who helps create and keep the culture of caring and giving in the communities we serve. I am proud to work for a company that would not only allow me to give back, but encourage me and even give me opportunities to do so.

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Humana, KaBOOM! build 9 more playgrounds across U.S.

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Humana and nonprofit KaBOOM! have worked with communities across the country in the last nine weeks to add another nine multigenerational playgrounds that bring families, friends and neighbors together to exercise, have fun, socialize and make memories.

This is the third year of the partnership between Humana and KaBOOM!, which has resulted in dozens of new playgrounds that feature traditional kid-friendly equipment as well as walking paths and fitness stations for adults. By the end of 2014, Humana, the Humana Foundation and KaBOOM! will have teamed up to build more than 50 playgrounds across the United States.

The nine playgrounds built this fall were in Columbus, Ohio; Maryville, Tenn.; Raleigh, N.C.; Chesapeake, Va.; St. Louis, Mo.; Jacksonville, Fla.; West Valley City, Utah; Las Vegas, Nev.; and San Diego, California.

Watch the videos below from builds in Jacksonville, Fla., and Columbus, Ohio, to get a glimpse of what it’s like to build a playground in six hours and to hear community residents and volunteers tell us what it means to them.

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KaBOOM! founder Darell Hammond built movement to save play – and create hope

Darell Hammond founded KaBOOM! in 1996.

Darell Hammond founded KaBOOM! in 1996.

Two young children left their apartment in Washington, D.C., on a hot, humid day in 1995 to find a place to play, a place to imagine, a place to have fun. They never came home. Their neighborhood offered no good options for play. There was no backyard, no playground, no ball field. They chose to explore the only option they saw, too young to recognize the hidden dangers. They climbed into an abandoned car in an alley, got locked inside and suffocated.

Darell Hammond, a young man living in Washington in 1995, was planning a playground construction project a few miles away through his job with Youth Service America. When he heard about the tragedy and the fact that there was no playground within three miles of the apartment complex, he was determined to find a way to build another safe place for kids to play. He did more than that. He built a national movement to save play. Eighteen years later, Hammond and KaBOOM!, the organization he founded in 1996, have worked with community partners throughout the country to build thousands of playgrounds, enriching and changing countless lives.

That 1995 tragedy would seem to be reason enough to understand why Hammond takes play so seriously and is passionate about ensuring all children have a safe place to experience the pure joy of play. But he was inspired to help others at a much earlier age. Hammond and his seven siblings grew up at Mooseheart, a group home near Chicago where he learned the power of a strong community and the importance of reaching out to help.

“Philanthropy raised me,” Hammond said in a recent interview. “When my family circumstances changed when I was 4, a community gave me and my family a bear hug.” Hammond has been passing that same emotional support along to others ever since.

Hammond said his childhood was happy and healthy thanks to the supportive environment at Mooseheart, which also provided plenty of opportunities to play and explore on its 1,200 acres that included playgrounds, ball fields, trees and a lake.

How important was it to Hammond to have that safe environment to play and explore? To him, it was essential and profound. In the book, “KaBOOM! – How One Man Built A Movement To Save Play,” Hammond points to research that indicates play is fundamental to social development and brain formation and an essential element in building a successful, healthy life.

“Play is how we give kids the childhood they deserve,” he said. “Play should focus on the whole child, not bits and pieces. Studies suggest that instead of trying to focus on one aspect or subject and building elite athletes and elite brains, we need balance, and we get that opportunity through play that involves physical activity and activity for the mind. We need it from the youngest age to young adulthood to the last years of life. It keeps us vibrant – physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.”

Community is also important to Hammond, whose organization puts a priority on involving children, parents, grandparents, local organizations and local residents in every aspect of each playground project. It begins a few weeks before the actual build with a Design Day, where the children and adults who will use the playground design it in a way that fits their own specific needs. Hammond firmly believes that change is more effective when events and projects, such as a playground build, are planned and executed by a community working together and not done for a community by others.

Hammond said partnerships with local organizations, other nonprofits and corporate sponsors, such as Humana and the Humana Foundation, have been essential to the success of KaBOOM! and in helping build stronger communities. He expresses deep gratitude for the support of Humana and its associates, who come out in force to volunteer at each build. Humana and KaBOOM! formed a three-year partnership in 2011 that will result in 50 new playgrounds being built around the country. Additionally, the Humana Foundation sponsors the KaBOOM! Playful City USA initiative.

“Strong bonds are formed and last beyond the playground builds,” he said. “We see continuing volunteerism and a tremendous ripple effect through the community because of a profound shared experience. It shows that we are all better together.”

Hammond said there is no better illustration of the importance of play than the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf region, on the East Coast after Sandy or the tornado in Joplin, Missouri. There was some hesitation from communities in the Gulf when approached about building a playground because that seemed a low priority given the devastation in the region. But Hammond was convinced that the therapeutic effect of a return to play was vital. He came back to the region a couple of years ago to tour the dozens of playgrounds that had been built after Katrina and was profoundly affected by the stories he heard about the positive influence of the playgrounds.

“I am particularly proud of the work we have done to address post-traumatic stress,” he said. “The perception is that kids are resilient and bounce back, and often they do not, but play helps them deal with traumatic stress. I was told of instances where children had suffered such trauma that they talked of harming themselves, but there were much fewer instances of that in areas where the playgrounds were built. It moved this work from nice-to-do to absolutely necessary to do.” Hammond emphasized that it is equally urgent to accelerate the pace and put more focus on the effects of long-term toxic stress on the 16 million children living in poverty – before it is too late.

The effects of planning and building the playgrounds went beyond the return of play and children’s laughter in the Gulf. The accomplishment of the builds “changes our mood and gives a sense of pride and hope for what is possible,” said Hammond. “We didn’t do it for them; we did it with them. It is this lasting change that we want to leave behind.”

(Watch the video below about a recent playground build in Columbus, Ohio.)

Other related articles, videos and resources:
Playful City USA Summit: Championing the power of play
Playful City USA Leaders’ Summit Highlights Reel 2013
Humana, KaBOOM! to build 9 more playgrounds across U.S. this fall
Video: Mirage in the desert – Building a Multigenerational Playground
Humana Foundation helps community, refugees build a safe place
Louisville community volunteers see ‘hope realized’
When Good Is Not Good Enough (Stanford Social Innovation Review)

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