Let’s Play!


I can remember the thrill of swinging high in the air on the swing set at my local park when I was a kid. My friends and I would try to see who could swing the highest, then jump off the swing mid-air to see who could jump the furthest. It was freeing, it was exhilarating and let’s face it, it was FUN.

I can remember the fear, the good kind of fear, which would present itself the first time I did a flip on the uneven bars on the playground and how fun it was once I finally overcame my fears.

I can remember how the playground turned into a pirate ship surrounded by shark infested waters, so you didn’t want to dare to go overboard.
I cherish all of these fond memories of play from my childhood.  What I remember most was laughing until my sides hurt, making new friends and using my imagination to spark creativity on the playground.

I’m sure many of you have the same type of childhood memories from playing on the playground at school or at your neighborhood park.

However, what’s alarming to me is that in many parts of our country, children do not have access to safe places to play.  According to the CDC, in 2010, only 1 in 5 children in the United States live with in walking distance to a playground or park.

A playground is more than just a playground. It’s a brain-expander, friend-maker, and muscle builder. Play is central to a child’s ability to grow into a productive adult.

At United Way, we believe that play is an essential part of improving children’s health and having safe places to play builds healthy communities. That’s why we are excited to expand opportunities to play in Sacramento.

We have teamed up with the Mack Road Partnership, KaBOOM! and the CarMax Foundation to build a brand new playground at the Mack Road Valley-Hi Community Center.

On November 19th, in just a few short hours, 250 volunteers will build a new play space. Over 500 kids in the Mack Road community will have a safe place to play and parents and the community will have a vibrant neighborhood-gathering place. (You can sign-up here!)

This project is among 30 playgrounds The CarMax Foundation and KaBOOM! will build across the country by the end of 2015. The CarMax Foundation has provided the majority of the funding for the playground through its national partnership with KaBOOM!, supporting The Foundation’s commitment to furthering the cause of children’s healthy living. We are so grateful that the CarMax Foundation and KaBOOM! are bringing this fantastic opportunity to Sacramento and even more grateful that they chose to partner with United Way and the Mack Road Partnership!

If you, like me, want to see more kids have access to safe places to play, then I encourage you to join us. We have plenty of ways for you to get involved in building this brand new playground. Check out the volunteer opportunities listed on our United Way Volunteer Center by clicking here.

Together, we can give all children the joyful childhood they deserve and help them grow into healthy and successful adults. Let’s show that play matters in Sacramento!

Kristina Ricci is a Program Officer in the Community Impact Department at United Way California Capital Region.  She is an advocate for play for kids – and adults too!