As a military veteran, CarMax Foundation president Matt Aman is well aware of the stress military families face. He also knows how important play is to children of military members.
“When you are deployed and away from your family, knowing that they are happy, healthy and supported in the community allows you to focus on the mission,” Aman said in a news release.
The CarMax Foundation has provided most of the funding for playgrounds and creative play sets through its national partnership with KaBOOM!, a non-profit organization that provides safe places to play for children, especially those living in poverty.
For one of the partners’ latest projects, The CarMax Foundation and KaBOOM! are providing six life-size creative play sets to community organizations that serve military families. The partners will provide the play sets during the “Week of Play,” which began Monday and runs through Friday.
As part of the program during the “Week of Play,” the partners will host six community events across the country to make play more accessible to children of veterans and active duty service members. On April 3, the CarMax Foundation and KaBOOM! started this month’s activities by working with the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation to build a new community playground at Kennedy Park. The park is located in an area with a large military family population.
For that project, The CarMax Foundation, KaBOOM!, and the City of San Antonio gathered hundreds of volunteers to build a new playground in just six hours. Earlier, at a local event at Winston Elementary School, local children provided drawings of their dream playgrounds, and the new playground was designed based on those drawings. Many families in the community say their experience moving to San Antonio has been positive, but they would still like more community support to make the transition easier on their children.
When a parent deploys or returns home from military service, or when the parent moves locations frequently, that can cause a great deal of emotional impact for children, according to KaBOOM! The organization quotes the Blue Star Families’ annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey in stating that the impacts of deployment on children remains a top issue for service members and military spouses.
“When kids face uncertainty or stress, play creates a safe buffer against the change or adversity around them,” KaBOOM! said.
The organization said 96 percent of military family respondents feel that “working with neighbors to improve communities is important.” However, about 48 percent of military families responding to the survey feel as if they don't belong in their local civilian community, and 43 percent feel they don’t belong in their military community.
During the “Week of Play,” the six grants for creative play sets — Imagination Playground and Rigamajig — will be provided to the following child-serving non-profits that span across the country:
— Belleaire Elementary School in Bellevue, Neb.
— Bridge Creek Elementary School in Elgin, S.C.
— Child Crisis Center of El Paso
— Kids Rank in Highland Park, Ill.
— New Hanover Township School in Wrightstown, N.J.
—Tinker Elementary School in Oklahoma City
Each grantee is holding community events to celebrate the receipt of the play sets. Imagination Playground helps children build and rebuild play spaces using blue foam blocks. Rigamajig features wooden planks, wheels, pulleys, nuts, bolts and rope for children to play “while learning 21st-century skills.”
“The Foundation and KaBOOM! are committed to providing experiences in individual and group collaboration so military kids grow up able to connect, collaborate, problem solve and think creatively through active play opportunities that will prepare them for tomorrow,” KaBOOM! said.
"CarMax associates are deeply committed to supporting military communities and we’re proud to partner with KaBOOM! to make playspaces more accessible to children of military families across the country," said Aman of the CarMax Foundation.