LaFleur Teams With KaBOOM! to Help Build New Park in Grand Rapids
Written by Leigh Ebrom
As part of our community outreach initiative, LaFleur recently partnered with KaBOOM! and a group of community volunteers to rebuild a park and playground on the site of an historic school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Within 48 hours, the team cleared the land, constructed a modern playground, and welcomed community members to the new park. We’re honored to have been part of this remarkable project.
KaBOOM! Recognizes That Children Need Unstructured Outdoor Play
Between 1981 and 1997, children’s levels of unstructured active play decreased by 25%. Today’s children, especially those in urban areas, have fewer opportunities to play freely. Unfortunately, reduced physical activity harms kids in many ways — including behavioral issues and obesity, among others. Research suggests that physical activity (especially unstructured outdoor play) improves children’s health, executive function, cognition, and social skills.
Today, only 25% of children get their recommended level of daily activity. Low- and middle-income children are hit hardest due to limited access to safe outdoor play areas, the rising cost of youth recreation, cuts in recess time and physical education at school, and the popularity of screen time.
KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization that aims to improve children’s quality of life and play equity by building spaces that encourage kids to run, jump, climb, explore, and create. Since it was founded more than 20 years ago, KaBOOM! has been involved in more than 17,000 play space rebuilds and renovations. The organization also helps create mobile play equipment that can move locations within a community, offering play opportunities to as many children as possible.
Rebuilding Eastern Park and Improving Play Equity
In 2018, KaBOOM! announced a project at the site of Grand Rapids’ Eastern Elementary School. For nearly 80 years, Eastern Elementary served the Northeast side of Grand Rapids and was one of the first schools in the city to be designed with disabled children in mind. Unfortunately, Grand Rapids Public Schools closed Eastern Elementary in 2008 due to lacking enrollment.
The massive, brick building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, remained empty until 2016 when a non-profit organization purchased the school. The structure is being converted into affordable neighborhood housing that will contain 50 apartments for low- and medium-income families, as well as social service offices and an indoor gymnasium. More than half of the units will be dedicated for low-income residents who make 60% or less of the area median income.
As part of the renovation, the non-profit donated more than 1.5 acres of the property, which contained an outdated playground, to the City of Grand Rapids for use as Eastern Park. In addition to the playground, the park offers open green spaces and a picnic structure. Renovating the newly-acquired land became a high priority and an opportunity to improve the city’s play equity.
Our Rainy Work Day Had Impressive Results
In conjunction with other community partners, including one of our clients, Fluresh, LaFleur’s team helped prepare the playground site for construction. Our team participated in a variety of activities, including:
- Unloading, cutting, and organizing lumber for the project (using Chip LaFleur’s truck as an ad hoc sawhorse)
- Organizing and sorting tools to streamline the construction process
- Cleaning the entire park — picking up trash, broken glass, and other debris
- Digging up roots impeding playground construction
- Placing tables, tents, and equipment into storage pods
We joined more than 100 volunteers working together in the rain to improve children’s access to parks and playgrounds. We completed all of our tasks and cleaned up the work site by the afternoon. By 2:30 PM the next day, city officials and KaBOOM! were celebrating Eastern Park’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Today, neighborhood children flock to the park after school. In addition to a tire swing, slides, and monkey bars, Eastern Park offers a climbing wall, a “music store” with kettle drums, and a little library with free books.
Community Service Is an Essential Part of LaFleur’s Mission
As an agency, LaFleur is service-oriented. We believe our clients deserve attention to detail, practical advice, and quick turnaround times on all deliverables and campaigns. We aim to build meaningful relationships based on mutual respect and tangible results. Our passion for hard work and helping others also extends beyond our daily work and into our community.
While we’ve consistently volunteered as a team, LaFleur renewed our commitment to community in 2017. Today, our team gives one day each month to a local non-profit that makes a meaningful impact on our community. Other recent projects include making nutritious sack suppers for at-risk children, improving an animal rescue’s website, and entertaining community members at a senior living center.
In 2018, LaFleur was designated as “Good for Grand Rapids” thanks in large part to our commitment to meaningful change, community engagement, and responsible business practices.
Learn More About LaFleur
LaFleur delivers brilliant digital marketing solutions for law firms, healthcare organizations, and businesses. We pride ourselves on our commitment to service, whether it’s benefiting our clients or the community. If you’d like to partner with LaFleur, call us at 888-222-1512 or complete this brief online form.
Burdette, H., Whitaker, R. (2005, January). Resurrecting free play in young children: Looking beyond fitness and fatness to attention, affiliation, and affect. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/485902
Hughey, A. (2018, August 20). From school to homes: ICCF to develop affordable housing at Eastern Elementary. Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. Retrieved from https://www.friendsofgrparks.org/2018/08/eastern-elementary/
Play matters. (2018). KaBOOM!. Retrieved from https://kaboom.org/play_matters