Volunteers Built Us a New Playground After Hurricane Sandy

Work and celebration mark a perfect day!

Our New Palyground Under Construction

Some of 200 volunteers, including our staff, parents and community residents, worked together to erect a slide-tunnel-fort apparatus in the new SIMHS playground at the Build Day event.

July 27, 2013 was a very special day for children who were affected by Hurricane Sandy and were receiving services from the Society, when a team of 200 dedicated volunteers from the SIMHS, BNP Paribas, organizer KaBOOM!, and community residents built a brand new, state-of-the art playground, in about eight hours, at our West Brighton campus at 669 Castleton Avenue. The new playground was erected on the footprint of our 30-year-old play space that was dismantled the previous week.

The design of the playground was based on ideas created by some of the children who use it. At a Design Day event, a group of youngsters who receive our services drew pictures of their dream playgrounds, which were later fine-tuned by parents and incorporated into final plans. On the kids’ wish lists were swings, slides, forts, climbing apparatuses, and other equipment in lively shades of gold, green and purple. New shrubs, trees and benches were also incorporated into the play area.

The playground project was made possible through the SIMHS’s first-time partnership with the national non-profit KaBOOM! and underwriter BNP Paribas, a top European investment bank.

In the weeks leading up to Build Day,  KaBOOM!, BNP Paribas, and SIMHS staff and parents worked to recruit volunteers and collect everything from construction tools to catering supplies, wheelbarrows to wiffle balls, bagels to buzz saws. Most of the food, water, construction equipment and other supplies were donated by businesses and individuals in the community.

The volunteers pooled their muscle and mental powers for the day’s work of transforming an empty space into a vibrant play area, working to a backdrop of music, food, prizes, supervised youth activities, and surprises. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at 3 pm, attended by borough dignitaries including Councilwoman Debi Rose, who represents the Island’s North Shore, local educators and members of the Society’s Board of Directors. The official Grand Opening of the playground was on July 30, which gave the concrete time to cure.

“This is one of the most exciting initiatives that the SIMHS has undertaken,” said SIMHS President/CEO Fern Zagor. “We are thrilled that we were selected by KaBOOM! and BNP Paribas for this project because it is benefitting children who have suffered so much in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. And what makes it more exhilarating, is that not only parents, but the business and residential communities have given their full support in the forms of volunteer service and donations of both funds and goods. The SIMHS and our children are deeply grateful to all who made this new playground a reality, and we hope you will visit us to see the children at play.”

Since December 2012, the Society has provided more than 5,000 encounters with Island residents affected by Hurricane Sandy, Ms. Zagor added.

With a presence in 78 countries, BNP Paribas is a top-ranking retail banking, investment solutions, and corporate and investment firm. “We are proud to support KaBOOM! in its mission to create safe engaging spaces where children can play, imagine and grow,” said Jean-Yves Fillion, CEO of BNP Paribas North America. “We are also very proud to help the Staten Island Mental Health Society, whose important work with families in the community – especially those affected by Hurricane Sandy – is an inspiration for our own rebuilding efforts in the New York City area.”

KaBOOM! is a national non-profit dedicated to giving kids the childhood they deserve by bringing play to those who need it most. “Children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation, a fact that is having disastrous consequences on their health, achievement levels, and overall well-being,” according to social entrepreneur Darell Hammond, who founded KaBOOM! in 1996. Since then, KaBOOM! has mapped over 90,000 places to play, built more than 2,300 playgrounds, and successfully advocated for play policies in hundreds of cities across the country. KaBOOM! also provides communities with online tools to self-organize and take action to support play on both a local and national level.