Darell Hammond

Year founded: 

KaBOOM! seeks to create “a great playspace within walking distance of every child in America,” improve children’s health and mobilize communities around a common cause.

Focus: Children and Youth, Health
Geographic Area of Impact: US, Mexico, Canada
Model: Hybrid non-profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 5.5 million
Annual Budget: US$ 22 Million
Percentage Earned Revenue: 92%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, US, 2011

Forty percent of US schools have eliminated or reduced recess (playtime) for their young students. It has been demonstrated that a lack of free playtime increases aggression and anti-social behaviour in children. Outside of schools, public play spaces across the US have fallen into neglect or disrepair, and 82% of parents feel their children lack adequate outdoor play areas or recreational facilities near their home. Only one in five children live within a kilometre of a public park. This has tremendously adverse effects on childhood obesity rates, which are on the rise in North America.

Innovation and Activities
KaBOOM!’s stated mission is to help provide “a great playspace within walking distance of every child in America.” Since its founding, it has mobilized communities to eliminate the “play deserts,” and has built nearly 2,000 play areas across the US and Mexico. It has also provided citizens with do-it-yourself resources that have resulted in more than 5,000 community-built parks.

KaBOOM! is a strong proponent of the National Campaign for Play, a policy group advocating for systemic change in the way the US fosters healthy play for children. Leveraging the power of community mobilization for a common cause, KaBOOM! projects have noticeably built momentum for other community revitalization efforts. In an effort to scale its impact and cultivate community development, KaBOOM! has opensourced its mobilization knowledge and provides webinars, organizer toolkits, and a strong alumni and staff support network for those wishing to create community playspaces. One of the most significant tools is the Playspace Finder, a crowdsourced map of areas lacking play areas, to better target resources and activity. It has an online community of +30,000 members sharing stories and photos of relevant activities.

Partner organizations include the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, battered women’s shelters and charter schools. KaBOOM! also enjoys the support of 300 committed corporate sponsors, including Kraft, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, JetBlue, Disney, MetLife, Forresters and the National Basketball Association. It recently developed the mobile “Imagination Playground in a Box” framework to sell to day care centres, children’s museums, and park and recreation departments.

The Entrepreneur
Darell Hammond is a firm believer in the power of volunteerism and community mobilization. He grew up as a foster child in a group home in Chicago, and since that time has dedicated himself to community development. He studied community development at Northwestern University before heading the CityYear programme in Chicago in the 1990s. In 1995 Hammond read about two young people from a low-income area of Washington DC, who suffocated in an abandoned car they used as their only available playspace. This story, and the ensuing political debate, motivated the launch of Hammond’s KaBOOM! idea.