We Built a Playground!

May 1, 2018


by  Jeannine D. Mendez


A playground is a wonderful place for children to play and socialize. 

Thanks to the generosity of KaBOOM!, The Walt Disney Company, and partners like Catholic Charities of NY, the children and families of Astor’s Lawrence F. Hickey Center were given the gift of play with a new playground in October of 2017.

KaBOOM! is a national non-profit that believes play matters for all kids and that could not be more true than for the 40 children that attend the Hickey Center every day. The Hickey Center serves children between 2.9 and 5 years of age with behavioral and cognitive challenges that limit their ability to learn in a mainstream environment. This newly built therapeutic and age appropriate play space gives the children and their families an opportunity to expand social interactions, better communicate, improve physical endurance and dexterity, and most of all have fun!

In an effort to provide Astor’s children with an improved play experience more than 300 volunteers convened from areas all over to build a playground from scratch. 

Beyond the final product, bonds were forged between workers of all ages, ethnicities, skill sets, and religions.

On that day, volunteers transformed a dusty lot by mixing cement foundations, installing bridges, swings, jungle gyms, and picnic tables. The surroundings were adorned with mulch, turf,  and brightly colored murals. 

The spirit of play was alive on the day of the build as music pumped, power tools whirred, and laughter echoed throughout the expansive space. 

Local officials participated in the fun as Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz Jr, City Council Member Andy King, State Senator Jamaal Bailey, and Kevin Riley from State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office gathered for an end of day ribbon cutting. 

Long after most of the worker/volunteers had packed up, a scaled down crew from the Church of Latter Day Saints and Astor remained into the night until the job was complete.

While the process of building this playground was a large one – students, staff, parents, and community members collaborated for months prior in finding volunteers, and sponsors, gathering design input, and preparation
of the site.

In the end, the project was a collaborative effort that all involved can feel proud to have participated in.  

Senator Jamaal Bailey summed up the day best when he said, “Most of the people here today may never meet the children who will use this space but they should know that they’ve made a difference in the lives of the children at the Hickey Center.”

In the end, the smiles on the volunteers’ faces revealed the deep joy that play can bring to children and adults alike.



Read more Astor Family Magazine -Spring 2018

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