- Communities can lead the change they want to see for their own bright futures.
- Anything is possible when communities put aside differences and put kids first.
- Building a park playground can result in a safer neighborhood.
- Building a playground in the course of a weekend gives a community something to celebrate and a quick win to rally around.
- Unique pressures exist in high-profile projects. Expect them.
- The support of local community members– each bringing different contributions– makes for a successful project. Local expertise, volunteers, technical support, VIP appearances, funding— working together, all make it possible.
- With complex partnerships, keep the community at the center. It’s what leads to successful outcomes and maximum impact.
The Pullman community in the South Side of Chicago has a long history of significant challenges. Job losses stemming from disinvestment in the wake of 1950s deindustrialization left Pullman to deal with poverty’s debilitating effects. Safety became a concern. Now facing gun violence, Pullman residents long for safer streets.
Sherman Scullark, born and raised in Pullman, felt it was time to address the violence that permeated his community. To drive momentum towards peace Scullark connected with Detective Vivian Williams, a trusted police officer and community pillar who had lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. Enlisting William’s support, Sherman bravely initiated a truce with his rival gang.
Scullark’s courageous vision had a ripple effect. As part of the truce, the two gangs collectively decided to put down their guns as part of a larger commitment to non-violence in the community. Sherman worked with Chicago CRED (Creating Real Economic Destiny) a social impact organization founded in 2016, and a group of young men from the community to brainstorm ways of promoting safer streets for kids and families. The community most desired giving their kids a safe place to play.
Soon the Chicago CRED participants, led by Scullark, came up with the idea of creating a new playground for young kids – a gathering place for play, but also an important symbol for building a new and more peaceful future for families in Pullman.
Arne Duncan, Former U.S. Secretary of Education, and current Managing Director at Chicago CRED, reached out to KaBOOM! to lead the project. KaBOOM! is a national nonproﬁt that works to ensure all kids and all communities have equitable access to quality, imaginative playspaces.
In celebration of the gang truce and a long period without gun violence, KaBOOM! brought together Chicago CRED, Chicago Park District, and the Chicago White Sox to build a new playground for the community.
Those involved with devising the plan rallied around building the Pullman Peace Playground, demonstrating what is possible when communities put aside differences and put kids first. With support from organizations like Chicago CRED and KaBOOM! – communities can lead the change they want to see for their own bright futures.
Timeframe From Planning to Implementation
As is the case with most KaBOOM! projects, the community came together for Design Day about eight (8) weeks before Build Day. Every community is different and each playspace is unique. Shortly before the Pullman playground project, new partnerships were launched with parties who supported the playground project. Accordingly, it took more time than usual to bring all of the pieces together. Though this specific build process took a bit longer than the 6-hour, modern-day barn raising that KaBOOM! is known for, building a playground in the course of a weekend still gives the community something to celebrate and a quick win to rally around. In the process, the team learned about simultaneously working with multiple new partners, staying aligned, and being nimble in order to redefine success. As always, keeping the community at the center is what leads to outcomes and impact.
Primary partners included the support of local community members, Chicago CRED, the Chicago Parks District, the Chicago White Sox, and Landscape Structures, Inc. Each brought different contributions to the project, and together they made for a successful project: local expertise, volunteers, technical support, VIP appearances, and funding made it all possible.
Chicago CRED, via the Emerson Collective, provided significant funding support. The Chicago White Sox also made a financial contribution to support the playground project.
For 23 years, KaBOOM! has been the national nonproﬁt that works to ensure all kids and all communities have equitable access to quality, imaginative playspaces. Today, KaBOOM! continues to unify diverse audiences and partners to tackle the systemic play inequities that cause kids to miss out on healthy childhoods and keep communities from thriving. KaBOOM! has collaborated with partners to build or improve more than 17,000 playspaces, engage over 1.5 million volunteers and serve nearly 10 million kids. For 23 years, KaBOOM! has partnered with communities to build and improve playspaces.