By Tracy Correa
BAKERSFIELD – Nine-year-old Josh Kappel was so excited when he learned he could help design a playground that he showed up at a design day event on Tuesday (Sept. 11) with an already-completed rendering.
“I was so excited, I just drew and drew,” said Josh, who learned nearly a week ago that he would be coming together with other school children to draw their ideas.
Josh was one of more than 20 Bakersfield-area school children who gathered, along with their parents, at the California Living Museum where a new playground will be built on Nov. 10.
PG&E works with the national organization KaBOOM! and selected local non-profits to design, plan and build playgrounds to meet the needs of their community. So far, the partnership has resulted in new playgrounds in Santa Rosa, Eureka, Fresno and Oceano in San Luis Obispo County.
Playgrounds designed by kids
The partnership includes having local kids come up with ideas to help design their perfect playground, which is where the Bakersfield school children come in.
Josh had no problem visualizing his dream playground. His design included a castle with slides, a bridge and a moat. “I had the idea of this plastic, rubbery thing for the moat,” he explained.
Kaboom’s Josh Carlson told the children that their input is critical. “We need your help because you’re the experts. Draw the coolest playground you can imagine. We will try to piece together what we can from your drawings,” he said.
Luciella Fernandez, 5, thought deeply about her ideas and included people playing on the slides and swings and even included a castle. “That’s my sister,” the kindergarten student pointed out.
Erica Fernandez, Luciella’s mother, said she was glad that children were being asked for input. She also said she was amazed to hear the playground will be built in a day. “My husband built a playground in our backyard and it took a week,” she said.
Hundreds of volunteers expected
Beyond being designed by the community, the playground will be built by it. Up to 200 community volunteers – many of them PG&E employees – are expected to turn out for Bakersfield’s playground build day in November.
Since 2011 PG&E has donated nearly half a million dollars toward playground efforts with Kaboom, helping serve children in the state’s most underserved communities. So far, with the help of employees, partners, parents, and customers themselves, four new playgrounds have been created. (See a playground being built in Santa Rosa in this Currents video.)
A new playground at the museum in Bakersfield is desperately needed, said Stephen Sanders, chief of staff for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, which operates the museum and zoo. Beyond its repeat ranking as Kern County’s No. 1 family attraction, the museum receives more than 30,000 school children on field trips each year “It’s old. We put it in place 15 years ago,” said Sanders, who said the equipment is run down and faded.
Being selected for a Kaboom playground is huge for the museum, said Sanders. “Kaboom has been great. PG&E has been great,” he said.
In addition to Bakersfield, another playground is planned this year in Sacramento.
More information on the playground program is available on PG&E’s website.
Email Tracy Correa at firstname.lastname@example.org.