Community joins forces with nonprofit to advance playspace equity in Fairfax County
Alexandria, VA – Today, kids at the Hopkins House – James L. & Juliette McNeil Preschool Academy in Alexandria, Va., are celebrating as the school debuts a kid-designed playground. The months-long collaboration between Hopkins House, Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, and KABOOM! culminated this week as more than 180 volunteers installed the new playspace, which will offer more than 140 kids a high-quality, safe place to play that is close to where they live and learn.
The new playground was a collaborative effort by Monumental Sports and Hopkins House volunteers and community members, including kids, who presented creative ideas for their dream playground to Washington Capitals right wing Garnet Hathaway, Washington Wizards guard Jordan Schakel, Washington Mystics mascot Pax, and project organizers during Design Day in June. The new playground is inspired by those drawings and will provide hundreds of kids and their families with a new place to get active, build social bonds, and gather as a community.
“This project will bring a brand new, state-of-the-art playground to the children enrolled here at the Preschool Academy and living in the Mt. Vernon, Fairfax community,” said J. Glenn Hopkins, Hopkins House President and CEO. “That this new children’s playground is made possible through the generosity of the Mystics, Wizards, and Capitals sports teams makes this a really exciting community volunteer project.”
Play is essential to the physical, social, and emotional health of every child. However, historic disinvestment and exclusion caused by systemic racism have denied generations of children equitable access to parks and playgrounds, disproportionately affecting communities of color. The new playground at the Hopkins House – James L. & Juliette McNeil Preschool Academy, designed with the neighborhood’s unique needs and aspirations in mind, brings Alexandria, Va., one step closer toward ending playspace inequity and ensuring that every kid has the opportunity to experience the joys of childhood.
“Playgrounds are an iconic part of childhood. They’re not only where kids collect some of their best memories, but also where crucial skills are developed that nurture their physical, mental, and emotional well-being,” said Lysa Ratliff, CEO of KABOOM!. “KABOOM! is thrilled to work with our partners to bring to life the new playspace at the Hopkins House – James L. & Juliette McNeil Preschool Academy and ensure that kids in Alexandria, Va., have a place designed just for them, where they can play, learn, and unlock their greatest potential.”
Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation has provided support for the new playground through its partnership with KABOOM!, furthering its commitment to ending playspace inequity. Since 2011, Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation has invested nearly $800K in partnership with KABOOM! to build eight playgrounds across the region with the support of over 1,000 volunteers. Garnet Hathaway returned to help finish the playground alongside Jordan Goodwin of the Capital City Go-Go and other Monumental Sports representatives.
“We are completing our eighth community playground today so that more young people can reap the health benefits of outdoor activity and so this neighborhood can tighten their bonds among one another,” said Ted Leonsis, founder & CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. “As teams, as athletes, as employees and as a company we truly understand that we are in the business of creating joy – usually it is on the court or on the ice. But when we get to come to a local school and build something meaningful that they may be enjoyed every day, that’s a legacy we are even more proud of.”
The new play area replaces an outdated space with just one piece of permanent equipment. Now, the new space will have multiple permanent fixtures to accommodate more than 140 children who attend the school and over 1,000 more from the local community. The new and safe equipment is designed for children ages 2-5 and the highly visible play space can also serve as a friendly gathering place for the community’s older children, youth and families.
Leonsis continued, “This is always one of my favorite and most uplifting days of the year as we work together side by side with parents, students, leaders and our employees to make a real impact for the youngest members of our community.”
To ensure that playgrounds are able to open safely in every community, KABOOM! has issued important playground guidance that all communities, playground owner/operators and caregivers can follow. The guidance can be viewed or downloaded at kaboom.org/reopen.
About Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation
MSE Foundation is committed to making the region a better place for all by supporting game-changing solutions for our community. We fundraise, provide grants to nonprofits and rally Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s teams and fans to support and amplify the impact of community change agents. Together, we’re raising the game in the DMV. Learn more at MonumentalFoundation.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
About Hopkins House
Founded in 1939, Hopkins House is a nonprofit, high-impact, community-based learning center for children, youth, and their families, operating education enriched preschool academies for infants and children, summer discovery camps for adolescents, and a college and career development institute for teens and adults that help build the foundation for 21st century achievement and success in the new global economy. Learn more at HopkinsHouse.org.
KABOOM! is the national nonprofit committed to ending playspace inequity – the reality that quality places to play are not available to every child, especially in communities of color. Since 1996, KABOOM! has partnered with kids and communities to build or improve 17,000+ playspaces and ensure that nearly 12 million kids have equitable access to the crucial benefits and opportunities that playspaces offer. In 2022, KABOOM! launched the 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity, the $250 million plan to accelerate its mission in 25 high-priority locations over five years. Learn more at kaboom.org or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.