Bringing out the Best: KaBOOM! Founder Darell Hammond

As Playworks and KaBOOM! turn 20, Playworks’ Jill Vialet reflects on Darell Hammond’s outsized impact.

With the advent of Playworks’ 20th Anniversary and our aim of reaching 3.5 million kids in 7,000 schools by 2020, I am launching a new blog called "Bringing out the Best." The idea is to highlight amazing work by Playworks’ partners to bring out the best in our communities through play. I am excited for this chance to learn more about the state of play, and I welcome your suggestions for stories!

One doesn’t have to work for very long in the field of play to be asked, “Do you know KaBOOM! and Darell Hammond?” KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit that provides communities with tools, resources, and guidance to build and renovate playgrounds and play spaces, so that all kids have a place to thrive. Darell Hammond founded KaBOOM! in 1996, the same year Playworks was founded—a great year for play!

Since then, KaBOOM! has grown into an innovative nonprofit that brings together communities and committed funding partners to create and catalyze great places to play while also promoting and protecting play. KaBOOM! actively influences people's perceptions and behaviors so that playtime and play spaces are a priority for families and communities—especially those living in poverty.

This fall, Darell announced that he would be stepping down as the CEO of KaBOOM! and will transition from day-to-day management responsibilities while actively continuing with KaBOOM! in an advisory capacity.

It is hard to overstate the huge impact Darell has had on the field of play. The scale of KaBOOM!'s impact since its founding is staggering: more than $300 million raised; over one million corporate and community volunteers engaged in building, improving, and opening more than 16,000 play spaces; and new opportunities to play for more than eight million kids.  

Beyond building an extraordinary and lasting organization, Darell is also a personal source of inspiration and support for me and for many. When times were hard, Darell was always one of the first people I would call for advice. When I needed to vent, he was always there to offer humor and perspective.

KaBOOM! is in good hands with long-term staffer James Siegal stepping into the role of CEO. Like Playworks, as KaBOOM! celebrates its 20th anniversary it is entering a new phase of growth. From their foundation of building great places to play, KaBOOM! is literally moving to the city streets to ensure kids have great places to play wherever they are! By elevating the societal conversation around play, they are working towards the ultimate goal that one day all children will get the play they need to thrive.

Darell Hammond and KaBOOM! are extraordinary partners and unparalleled champions in promoting the power of play to bring out the best in every kid. It has been an honor to work with Darell over the years, and I can’t wait to see what he gets himself into next!

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