KaBOOM!
Podcast #42 — Aired September 11, 2014

What if all children could have the childhood they deserve? This week on BetterWorldians Radio, we’re talking to KaBOOM!, the national non-profit dedicated to ensuring that all children get the active and balanced play they need to thrive.

 

 

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James Siegal
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, KaBOOM!

James Siegal is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of KaBOOM!, the national non-profit that seeks to give children the childhood they deserve filled with balanced and active play, so they can thrive. Prior to KaBOOM!, James served as Chief of Staff for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that supports citizen engagement to address community challenges through AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund and other programs. James has broad experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors, including serving as Vice President of Nonprofit Programs and Practice at the leading non-profit coalition, Independent Sector. He also served as Registration Section Chief and Assistant Attorney General at the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau and associate at the global law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. James and his wife enjoy spending time on the playground with their three young girls.

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
On this week's episode of BetterWorldians Radio we are discussing KaBOOM's mission in-depth with COO James Siegal. James is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of KaBOOM. Prior to KaBOOM, James served as Chief of Staff of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that supports citizen engagement to address community challenges through AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund and other programs as well. James has broad experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors including serving as Vice President of non-profit programs and practice at the leading non-profit coalition Independent Sector. He also served as Registration Section Chief and Assistant Attorney General at the New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau and associate at the global law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison. James and his wife enjoy spending time on the playground with their three young girls. So, hello James. Thank you so much for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio. Welcome aboard.

James Siegal
Thank you very much, Ray. It's a pleasure to be here.

Raymond Hansell
I'd like to start by telling us a little bit about KaBOOM's mission.

James Siegal
Sure, like you said, we're all about making sure kids get the play that they need to thrive every day. Our mission at KaBOOM is to make sure that there are great places for kids to play and also to inspire people to take action in their communities to make sure that their communities are as playful as possible for all the kids in the community. Then finally to be a leader inspiring others to really pay attention to how important play is in kid's lives and in their development and how important play is as a competitive advantage for cities to attract and retain families.

Raymond Hansell
That sounds fantastic. I have to ask this question before we go any further. Where did the name KaBOOM come from?

James Siegal
Well as you can imagine, KaBOOM is like an explosion and in our case its an explosion of inspiration and energy. Its what happens when a community comes together and joins forces and does something positive. Very much like the BetterWorldian community, its about everyday people coming together and making a difference in their community and when that happens the sound of that is KaBOOM.

Raymond Hansell
KaBOOM. All right, so big things happen very fast at KaBOOM. Why don't you share with our listeners some of the early successes you've experienced at the organization?

James Siegal
The organization is about 19 years old now. It started when our founder and CEO Darell Hammond read an article in the Washington Post entitled No Place To Play and it was a story about a four-year old girl named Ayesha and her two-year old brother Clindon (Ph) who had climbed into an abandoned car to play on a very hot and humid day like we often have here in DC during the summer and they unfortunately got locked inside and suffocated to death because they didn't have a safe place to play. The only thing they could find was the abandoned car. And so when Darryl saw that story he was compelled to take action and that ended up leading to the building of the first KaBOOM playground. Since that time in our 19 year history, we've directly built 2,500 playgrounds and we've also catalyzed the building in improving and opening of a total of about 16,000 playgrounds so far. What we want to make sure of is that in addition to making sure that we're creating great places to play in communities across the country that everyone is enlisted to take action whether you're a city leader who can make changes at the city level to insure all kids in your community to get the play they need or you're a member of the community who is taking action, or a parent who is making sure that your own kids are getting the play they need to thrive.

Raymond Hansell
So you're really reaching out to communities at large to get people involved. How did you come onboard to KaBOOM? What drew you to the organization in the first place?

James Siegal
Well I've been here for about two and a half years. As you said in my bio, I've been in and out of government and non-profit work for most of my career so always having that mission driven bent to the work I do. What's really special to me about KaBOOM is that it brings to life everything that I value in a profession and also everything that's important to me in my personal life as the father of three young girls who are play experts.

Raymond Hansell
Play experts. What ages are your three girls?

James Siegal
They're eight, seven and five.

Raymond Hansell
Wow, that's great. What wonderful ages.

James Siegal
Yah!

Raymond Hansell
Tell us a little bit about the role that you play at KaBOOM?

James Siegal
Its a combination of both an internal role and an external role. Internally I'm making sure that everything we're doing is aligned with the strategic direction we've set as an organization and we're making sure that all parts of the organization are working together in pursuit of that common goal. Then also spending a lot of time with partners whether that's our wonderful funding partners, corporations who fuel our work and foundations, or speaking with audiences of folks who are the ones who are eager to take action to make sure that play is available for the kids in their lives.

Raymond Hansell
Sounds like amazing opportunity for them and for you. What makes that work that you do so fulfilling for you personally?

James Siegal
Well like I said, it's all about bringing my personal life and professional life together. Most people when they say they're bringing their work home with them its a bad thing. When I bring my work home its usually a good thing. When I took the job at KaBOOM I overnight went to being the coolest dad in the world because I build playgrounds for a living. Half joking, it was the first job where my kids understood what I did for a living. And so having that valuable connection where I can talk to my kids who are pretty young about the work that I do and how what I do during the day is intended to benefit all kids is just an incredible experience to have as a parent. It helps teach kids empathy and respect and lets them know that they should be looking for the purpose in their lives and that work can be meaningful and can be aligned with all the values that you have in your personal life.

Raymond Hansell
Well you're working at playing and playing at working. That's an amazing combination. According to your website, this was an interesting piece of information for our listeners. Children actually spend less time playing outdoors today than any previous generation. Why do you think that is?

James Siegal
I think there are a lot of factors and it depends on the community. The number one factor that affects the kids that we serve which are in communities that represent the 16 million kids in this country that are growing up in poverty is safety. Neighborhoods are not safe and so often times kids finish school and the only safe place to be is to go straight home and sit on the couch. In other neighborhoods, I think its a combination of structured schedules where there's a focus on making sure kids have the benefits of all the different opportunities that can be afforded to them and also the real influx of technology in kid's lives. There have been studies that have suggested that kids are spending about seven or eight hours a day on a screen so that's like approximately four months out of the year is in front of a screen. And so those things are putting pressures on kids and families where they're not getting the play they need. And then the final thing is a deficit of time where everyone, parents and kids alike don't have a lot of time to spend together and as a result its hard to find opportunities to play together.

Raymond Hansell
Can you describe KaBOOM's efforts to support this balance, this active balanced play that you're striving to do.

James Siegal
Sure. You think about nutrition and you think about things like my plate where everyone knows that you're supposed to get a balance of your fruits and vegetables and your grains and your proteins. We are really advocates for a similar type of thing when it comes to play. Unfortunately what we see is a real imbalance in kid's lives where you have some kids are spending all their time on a couch in front of a screen, or others even ones that are physically active playing one sport every single season of the year instead of getting the opportunity to try a lot of different things. For kids, we know that play benefits their entire development so I think everyone fundamentally understands the physical benefits of play when you see kids running around and skipping and jumping, you know it must be good for their physical development. What's less obvious is that play is so important to the social and emotional development of kids. That's how kids make friends and develop engaged, caring, loving relationships with the adults in their lives. And its also critical to the cognitive and creative development of kids. And so you can imagine kids make-believe worlds that they make up, that's critical for their ability to develop those creative skills that are so essential particularly in the 21st century where the number one requirement to be successful is to have that creativity, to have those higher order problem solving skills, things that come from kids playing.

Raymond Hansell
KaBOOM actually says that a life full of active balance play makes kids smarter, happier and fitter. So how does this active balance benefit the children's well-being from your point of view?

James Siegal
I think if you get that balance, you're exposed to all these different opportunities to develop your minds, to develop your body, to develop connections with friends and adults. It all starts from play being something that is fun and leading to a positive outcome. And so if you tell someone to exercise, they're not going to want to do it. It's like eating broccoli. If you invite someone to play, they're going to want to do it and kids love to play. They're hardwired to play and what's terrific about it is that's how they learn. That's how they grow. That's how they develop. And so just from my own personal experience as a father with three kids, I see how they develop differently each of them through play. So my eldest daughter, she's the type that always wants to practice something until she gets it right and so she's the one who when she was learning how to get across the monkey bars, every week she would be trying and trying to get all the way across the monkey bars. Each week she would get a little further. Even though there were setbacks and failures along the way, that's how she learned grit and resilience and determination, which is so important for kids to be able to grow healthily. My middle daughter can be a little shy and so for her play is the way that she's able to make friends and open up to the world. And my other daughter for her she creates these elaborate worlds of imaginary people and friends and things like that through play. You can see her creative juices flowing. Kids need all of those things in order to grow well and play offers all of those opportunities.

Raymond Hansell
Well that's why we're so excited about our partnership with KaBOOM because as you may know, we're developing a new game called a Better World For Kids and essentially its taking the existing social game that we have and bringing it down to age groups like seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve. We're bridging the real world and the virtual worlds and really encouraging the kids to bring some of their real world experiences and all the good stuff that they do into the virtual world and back and forth. So we think this is a very, very admirable work that you're doing and we're excited about the partnership. We need to take a break right now but we'll talk more with James and my co-host MarySue when we come back. In the meantime, I'd like to offer this challenge to our listeners. If you know someone whose acts no matter how small are making a difference in the lives of other people, we'd love to hear about them. Send us an email at Radio@BetterWorldians.com. We'll be right back. (Music)

Raymond Hansell
You're listening to BetterWorldians Radio. We're speaking with James Siegal, the COO of KaBOOM, the national non-profit that seeks to give children the childhood they deserve filled with balanced and active play so that they can thrive. And now let's welcome back James and MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
Hi James.

James Siegal
Hi MarySue.

MarySue Hansell
You were saying there's a real focus these days on organized activities for children, the planned play and that kind of thing. I really love that you talked about the different benefits that unstructured play offers. You were talking all the different things that it could provide. Could you elaborate on that?

James Siegal
Sure. I think its important to remember that its all of these types of play that are good for kids and kids need a balance of all of them. Each offers different benefits. We think that its critically important that adults are engaged in the lives of kids. A great way to do that is through play. At the same time, you want to make sure that play is not dominated by the adults but that adults play a great role in guiding play. There are two academics who have written extensively on this approach around guided play, Cathy Hershberger (Ph) at Temple and Roberta Volenkoff (Ph) at Delaware where its not an either or proposition between structure and unstructured play. Its about making sure that play is guided in the best way possible for kids. When kids are left to create their own rules and imagine their own possibilities, they're expanding their creativity. They're taking risks in a way that's safe for them to do so. They're growing in numerous ways and if its only kids being told exactly what to do, you don't get that same benefit. So for us its about exposing kids to all of these different opportunities and not have adults step out of the lives of kids. In fact, our biggest message is that kids need caring and engaged adults in their lives and that play is a great way to do it because that's how kids feel protected and loved. It also means that adults can provide a great environment for play without necessarily dictating every step of how the play takes place.

MarySue Hansell
That's a good point. What do you say are some good ways for parents to encourage and support the children's play?

James Siegal
Its a great question and it may be an unconventional answer. I would say look for the moments during the day that are moments of frustration. You think about what it takes to get kids ready for bed at night and how its usually a struggle between parents and kids. What if you turn it around and make it a playful moment where kids feel like they're enjoying themselves and playing and at the same time they're getting ready whether that's a game around brushing their teeth, they're getting their pajamas on or whatever it is. If parents can see all the moments in their lives that seem like moments of frustration when they're dealing with their kids and look at those as opportunities for playful engagement, I think everyone will feel a lot better. Whether that's getting ready for bed or long car rides or the walk to school or whatever it is, those are moments where with a little bit of creativity, you can turn a moment of frustration into a moment of joy. Also you have to make time for it. If the only time that families are spending together are doing things like chores or watching TV or things like that, capture those moments and turn those into playful moments whether its a family game night or going outside and getting some fresh air and going to the playground and playing. Those are all opportunities where it doesn't take rocket science. All it takes is some intention about making sure that the family is spending quality time together.

MarySue Hansell
I think that's really good advice for parents and grandparents alike. I know I always have fun playing with the grandkids. It's actually relaxing to me, probably more so than the parents are a little busy but I think if they got involved, they would really enjoy it even more so than just trying to get them to bed on time or let's get to that place we're going to. Anyway, how does playing together benefit families as a whole?

James Siegal
It certainly benefits the kids. Like I said, it makes the kids feel protected and loved, which is critical to development. It also reinvigorates the kid in all of us, which is always a good thing. It gets people to remember that its important to make sure you're enjoying time together with those that you love. For us in the communities that we serve where the 16 million kids growing up in poverty live in this country, those kids are often at risk of what the scientists call toxic stress. By toxic stress they mean these kids are subjected to a constant barrage of adverse circumstances whether its neglect or deprivation or exposure to violence. For those kids, they are at risk of stress that debilitates them. Stress in measurable quantities is actually good. It's part of growing. Its part of developing but if its constantly overwhelming, it actually affects the healthy development of the brain. When families play together, it creates a protective barrier around these kids who otherwise could succumb to toxic stress. That's really what our mission is all about, making sure that those kids who are growing up in extreme situations of adversity have that protective barrier around them and are growing up in a healthy way and are able to succeed in spite of the circumstances.

MarySue Hansell
KaBOOM has the most playful family contest. I think they had one this year. I read that Trisha's family won the grand prize. Can you tell us what that contest was about and how Trisha's family won the prize?

James Siegal
Sure. Trisha's family is a wonderful example of what I just described. We ran with our wonderful partner Walt Disney parks and resorts, the America's Most Playful Family Contest where we went out and searched for the family that just embodied playfulness. We got hundreds and hundreds of applications from wonderful families all across the country who expressed how play was the bonds that kept their family together. Trisha's family is from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. What they do, and its a multi-generational family, they connect play to their Native American culture and they've made their own games. They use it to be both physically active, even though they don't have an accessible playground nearby, but also to teach life lessons like sharing and working together. And also its how they express their creativity. Its just a wonderful story of a family that is living in an area of the country that does not have an abundance of resources but they create their own opportunities by playing together as a family. There's a great video on our website of their family playing together. When you see the expressions on the kid's faces, you know those kids are going to succeed in life because they're loved at home through play.

MarySue Hansell
I did see that video. It was a great video. I noticed what they did was they used their senses, eyes for a game, the ears to smell this and find that. I thought it was very inventive so I'm glad they won the prize. Can you talk about what a play desert is and what impact living in a play desert area might have on a child?

James Siegal
Well play deserts are areas of the country where there's no easy accessible place to play, no playground or field or anything like that. What we want to make sure of is that we make it as easy as possible for kids to get the play that they need and so you can imagine if a kid is growing up in a play desert, its not easy to play. In fact, it makes it much easier for the kid to live a sedentary life on the couch. Infrastructure matters and what we are all about is making sure that cities create a kid friendly, family friendly environment to make it as easy as possible for kids in the city to get the play that they need to thrive. We call that play ability. You may have heard about walk ability and bike ability where cities like New York City and Washington DC and Chicago are making their cities as walk friendly and bike friendly as possible.

MarySue Hansell
Yes, yes.

James Siegal
And those create terrific opportunities for people to be active. For the most part, those benefit folks without kids because even if you have bike lanes in a city, it doesn't mean that you necessarily want your five year old riding their bike along the street where the cars are. The same with walking to things like the subway and things like that. For the most part, they benefit 20-somethings, what I would call pre-parents and empty nesters. And so we think walking and biking are fantastic and cities should certainly focus on those things and in addition we think there's a real competitive advantage for cities to focus on play. We call that play ability. Its all about making play the easy choice for kids in the city and for families. We think it's a competitive advantage because cities have definitely turned things around by attracting the creative class. And at the same time what we're hearing from mayors across the country is to create economic sustainability they need to be able to attract and retain families. Everyone whether you're a parent with young kids, a grandparent, a 20-something, you're attracted to places that have jobs and safe neighborhoods. Families also want great schools and abundant opportunities to play. Cities that can create those abundant opportunities to play throughout the city will have an easier time attracting and retaining families which is good for the economic health and well-being of the community.

MarySue Hansell
I see that KaBOOM is now getting cities involved in these playful initiatives. Can you talk a bit about the Playful City USA Initiative?

James Siegal
Sure, we have a program called Playful City United States and this year we've recognized over 200 cities across the country who are committed to ensuring that their cities are play friendly. We're also focusing on a small handful of those cities and we're going to be convening those cities in Chicago next month at a summit where the cities are going to be working on what is the big problem that their city is trying to solve and how are they going to use play to solve the challenge at the scale that the challenge exists in their community. That can take a variety of forms. Cities are facing numerous challenges from rising rates of childhood obesity to challenges of teaching and having kids develop 21st century learning skills, all of those things are things that play can help contribute to as a solution. And so these leading cities are taking action to see that happen. The reason that we choose Chicago as the site of the summit is that under Mayor Immanuel's leadership Chicago is really at the forefront of the play ability movement. They've done a wide variety of things from devoting significant resources to building and improving hundreds of playgrounds throughout the city, particularly in the communities where low income kids live. And also they've restructured and extended the school day to bring play back into the school day in the form of recess, physical ed, arts and cultural classes, all those things that we know are critical to a great education. And so we're excited to see the cities coming to the summit in Chicago really gain some momentum from that and coming out of that we want to make sure that cities across the country know what it takes to be a leader on play.

MarySue Hansell
Now what benefits do the communities and the cities get out of being named a playful city?

James Siegal
Its part of the recognition of being at the vanguard of the play ability movement. If you want to attract residents, you need to stand out from your peer cities. What we're finding is that the cities who are a part of the Playful City United States community are really doing just that. Near where I live in Rockville Maryland, the city has taken just tremendous steps to reinvent the town square for a kid in mind, which is really a unique initiative. So if you go to Rockville town square, you have a great grassy area with some boulders for the kids to climb on, a water fountain that's available in the summer months. They put an ice-skating rink there in the winter months and you know its a healthy community because whether you're there night or day the town square is filled with families with their kids. If anything shows the health and vitality of a community its families out and about in it and so that's just one example of a city that with its Playful City United States recognition is really distinguishing itself from peer cities.

MarySue Hansell
It really sounds like a fun place to visit.

Raymond Hansell
Yes, it does. I'll tell you, I don't know how our listeners are actually containing themselves. I'd like you to hang on because for me I just can't wait to get to a playground this afternoon and to play with some of my kids and grandkids. We're going to take another break right now. When we come back, we'll be talking more with James Siegal, the COO of KaBOOM and hearing some of the exciting things that they're doing for kids. We'll be right back. (Music)

Raymond Hansell
Hi, we're back now with James Siegal, the COO of KaBOOM, the national non-profit that seeks to give children the childhood they deserve filled with balanced and active play so they can thrive.

Gregory Hansell
Hi James, this is Greg.

James Siegal
Hi Greg.

Gregory Hansell
Hey so as we were mentioning earlier in the show, KaBOOM is our charity partner of the month in September and we've challenged our players in our game on Facebook to complete 300,000 good deeds in a better world and when they do, we'll release funds to purchase ten stages for KaBOOM. So I was hoping you could tell our listeners how the stages are used and to let their kids exercise their imaginations. How does that work?

James Siegal
Sure, first of all thank you so much. Its wonderful to be able to partner with you on this and for you to unleash the power of the BetterWorldians community to insure that kids get the opportunities that they need to play. The stages themselves, what we do when we build a playground is in addition to the playground we make sure that the playground is surrounded with other opportunities that help the kids and the community thrive. And so those things range from picnic tables to community gardens to things like outdoor classrooms and stages. The stages are just a great way for kids to exercise their imagination. I know I've seen kids playing on a playground where there's a stage where they create their own plays, they create these other worlds, they perform for each other, they perform for the adults around them, and they're freed from the confines of more sort of formal opportunities to be dramatic. It's really just a way to unleash their creativity and unleash their imaginations, which is so critical for their development.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I think that's really great. I have a three and a half year old daughter, Tabatha, at home and anything that even remotely resembles a stage she jumps on, starts doing a song or a dance or something like that so I think it's really wonderful that you've definitely made that part of every playground that you build. I think you're right. Kids love to be on stage and anything that can get them not only imagining but kind of building the confidence that comes along with that, being able to kind of present themselves to the world I think is an important thing.

James Siegal
Absolutely. That's really well said.

Gregory Hansell
Thanks. So today is of course September 11th and its the national day of service and remembrance in the United States. We heard KaBOOM is involved in a very special service project today. Can you tell us a bit about it?

James Siegal
Sure. Today for September 11th we're building a playground in partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service, My Good Deed, and Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School here in DC. Its part of the 9/11 day of service and remembrance. For us, we feel given what we do, there's no better way to remember and honor the sacrifice and heroism of folks from 9/11 by doing something worthwhile for the next generation because what we're all about is transforming a moment of deep tragedy into one of possibility. The kids at the school will benefit for many, many years from the opportunities to play and we hope they'll always remember why we did it and what it was for. Building that connection across generations is so critical and building the opportunity for the next generation to thrive feels like a fitting tribute.

Gregory Hansell
Absolutely. I think its a wonderful thing that you're doing. Its interesting. It just occurred to me that one thing that kids love to imagine being, pretend being are police officers and firemen and women. Those are two groups that really had made such a huge impact on that day and who unfortunately bore a lot of the bad costs of that day so I think its a wonderful tie-in there as well.

James Siegal
That's absolutely right.

Gregory Hansell
So tell me about the Birthday Club? I know that's a fun way to support KaBOOM.

James Siegal
Yes and the Birthday Club is all about kids helping kids. We think there's great power in that. When kids learn to help others, they develop that sense of empathy and respect for others and they also appreciate what they have in their lives. The Birthday Club is the embodiment of that. I know you have a three and a half year old and so you're probably on the birthday circuit like me where you're shuttling kids from party to party each weekend. What we're doing here is giving kids and their families an alternative to the traditional ritual of presents and so what kids are doing is instead of asking for presents for their birthday, they're asking their friends to make a small contribution to KaBOOM to insure that every kid has the opportunity to play. Birthday parties are always filled with play and we want to make sure every kid can play every day like its their birthday and so the Birthday Club is the way for kids to get involved in doing that by raising money to fuel what we do here at KaBOOM and to really connect in a different way with their peers. What we've found is that for parents, its a great opportunity because it gives a sense of meaning to the birthday. Its a learning opportunity for them to teach values to their kids and its on a cause that the kids fundamentally understand. If you ever ask a kid could you imagine a kid your age growing up without the ability to play, they would be shocked. Their face would tell it all. This is their way to give to a cause that they care about and they understand in their own personal lives. We feel that's a really important connection to make. We're just thrilled with all the support and the kids that have been doing this for us. It's just a tremendous testament to the work that we do.

Gregory Hansell
I think that's really great. I think even as young as maybe two, my daughter already was viewing birthdays with a very special thing. Its not only when her birthday comes around but she gets really excited. Mine is actually coming up in a few weeks and she gets really excited but anybody's birthday is a very special day. I think the kind of power in kids minds of birthdays coupled with this idea that kids aren't just imaginative. They're incredibly empathetic. When they hear about someone that doesn't have something that they have or has a very different experience, they instantly react to that. And so I think it's great to kind of bring those two things together and to use it for such good work so that's great.

James Siegal
Yeah. Anyone who wants to find out more about it, you can just go to KaBOOM.org/birthday and there's a way to sign-up so I encourage everyone to check it out.

Gregory Hansell
And very cool, while we're on the topic of talking about ways which people can find out about KaBOOM and support, what are some of the other ways that they can support you?

James Siegal
Well we certainly appreciate the contributions that people make to KaBOOM. In addition to that, we really want folks to share their stories, particularly families sharing their stories of how they're playing. That could be a photo, a quick video, a paragraph about how they play. Let us know where you play in unlikely places or how do you turn those moments of frustration into moments of joy, because those stories inspire others. What we've found is that the folks that we've connected with through America's Most Playful Family Contest are they are inspiring their peers to play more as a result of that. Others have seen their stories and their videos and have gotten inspired themselves, and so that's a powerful thing. Also we really encourage folks to take action in their own community from small steps to larger ones, so if your kid is in a school where they're not getting recess every day, you can take action. If you think that kids need more opportunities on the weekends to play, organize some activities in the park. If the playground around you is not safe, we've had many communities that have worked with us form playground watch groups so that everyone feels safe having their kids come out to the playground. There are a lot of things that people can do to take action to make their communities more playful and we really encourage that.

Gregory Hansell
Would you talk about some of those story submissions that you've received. Anyone that really jumped out at you?

James Siegal
There's so many. One that was just really particularly exciting to me was how this family had just infused play in absolutely everything they do, to the point where not just the kids but everyone would be wearing super hero outfits when they go out for a walk in the park and things like that. They probably feel like they're not part of the majority in their community. They're the outsiders, right, but what we're finding is when people really put themselves out there that they encourage others to follow suit. Another great example is a mom with two kids who spent the summer making sure they visited every single playground in their entire city. They loved the new experiences each time but the bottom line is that the mom said that it doesn't matter where we were, the fact that we were playing together was what mattered. And so those are just really inspirational stories that make me excited to go home and play with my kids too.

Gregory Hansell
So what's the future of KaBOOM? Where are you headed?

James Siegal
I think our most important work is really setting this new standard for cities where they're aspiring to be the most playable city and they're reaping the benefits of that with families wanting to live there. I think that city's work is really going to drive comprehensive action that makes sure that kids get the benefit of play in their lives. Our role in that is really to hold up these terrific leading examples of cities taking action and inspiring other cities to follow suit and so we're really focused on that. That is built on the strong foundation of the direct impact work that we do, so the 2,500 playgrounds that we've built, we've catalyzed the building improving and opening of around 16,000 playgrounds. Those playgrounds have served almost 7.5 million kids in the 19 years that we've been around. That direct impact work is so critical because we know it has a benefit for the kids that we serve. We also know that we need to do on top of that the work of inspiring cities to take comprehensive action and get individuals to really mobilize in their own communities if we're going to solve this problem of kids not getting the play they need at the scale that the problem exists for the 16 million kids growing up in poverty. So the focus of our work going forward is really continuing our direct impact work and using that as an opportunity to inspire cities to take big bold action and individuals to get inspired to become part of the cause.

Gregory Hansell
Yeah, I actually wanted to ask you a question about the city program. Is it only for large cities or are you looking for townships and smaller towns to be part of that as well?

James Siegal
Its a great question and its all size cities. For example, coming to the summit in October we have some of the largest cities like Chicago but we also have smaller cities where there may be 40 or 50,000 residents in the city. So cities is a broad term for us and among our over 200 Playful City United States communities we have communities that have a couple thousand residents in them so its all across the board. What's important is that all communities focus on making sure that all kids in their community get the play that they need.

Gregory Hansell
Excellent. Well let me ask you one last question. We like to ask it every week of our guests. We only have about a minute or so left. What's your vision for how KaBOOM is helping to make the world a better place for children and families? If your organization is successful, what does the future look like? How are kid's lives changed?

James Siegal
Kids will get the benefit of all types of development; physical development, social and emotional, cognitive and creative, but what's most important is that they'll get the childhood that they deserve. Can you imagine growing up without having play in your childhood? The fact of the matter is we're failing many of our kids, too many of our kids, and we need to bring play into their lives so that they can get the childhood that they deserve.

Gregory Hansell
I think that's great. I actually grew up across the street from a park, which was really kind of like a playground for us and we had playgrounds in the neighborhood too. Imagination is such a big important part of what I do in my career, and I believe that early play was such a huge part of that so I commend what you're doing. It's wonderful.

James Siegal
Thank you very much.

Raymond Hansell
Yah, it was a wonderful episode James. I want to thank you, myself, and on behalf of MarySue and Greg for joining us today. For all of our folks out there you can find out more about KaBOOM and what they're doing to change the world by going to KaBOOM.org. James once again thank you for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

James Siegal
Thank you. It was my pleasure.

Raymond Hansell
You're very, very welcome. Please join us next week when we'll be talking to Aria Finger from DoSomething.org. We'll talk about Do Something's mission to help young people tackle campaigns that impact every cause from poverty to violence and to the environment. As we end the show and we wrap up, we'd like to share our BetterWorldians mission on a weekly basis. We strive to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We focus on positive thinking, positive values and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian in everyone so that we can all make it a better world. To find out more about our upcoming kick-starter campaign for our better world for kids you can go to ABetterWorld.com/kickstarter. Our campaign will begin at the end of the month and we're very excited for the opportunity to build a version of this game that we've had now for some years just for kids called A Better World for Kids. Until next time, everybody out there, please be a BetterWorldian. (Music)