If you take a look around you today at all the relief efforts going on, you’ll find many organizations out there lending a hand for the greater good. This is happening in the Gulf Coast Region and in our own backyards and ranges from building homes to building playgrounds.
You’ll see Home Depot, KaBoom, Hands-On Network and many others out there helping out, and they are doing a wonderful job of perpetuating play and bringing a sense of normalcy back to the children of down-trodden areas.
There are also a few other organizations out there though that are very involved in community action to build play spaces for children. Kiwanis is one doing the very same thing. For instance, in my own community, the Kiwanis club has been very involved with fundraising for the second universally accessible playground to be built in the state of Idaho. In 2005 they took this on as a special project and decided to put together the Game of Greater Idaho Falls to sell as a fundraising help. Together with the playground committee, they “sold” properties on the board and raised enough funds to have the game produced. Then the proceeds from the game sales would go to benefit the playground project.
Check with your local Kiwanis, Rotary, Jay-Cees, etc., These organizations are all out there to help the community. Let them know about your project and how vital it is to your area. Don’t let them forget the importance of play for children…physically, socially, emotionally, as well as intellectually.
Let me illustrate the trickle-down effect. A group of engineering students at a local university here had contacted the local Habitat for Humanity organization to help out on a build for a school project. It happened that there wasn’t a build going on right at this particular time, and the students needed to complete the project during a specific time frame. However, the Habitat representative had heard about the playground project, so they forwarded the contact information for the playground committee to the students. The students were able to help out with engineering and design for the playground to help take the project to the next level, so it was a win-win for all.
Local radio stations are usually willing to give airtime and maybe even a remote or two for your project. Schedule a Play-A-Thon, which can be defined by your organization. One example is a scheduled play day, say from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Invite all the organizations and businesses that work with children to exhibit and provide a hands-on activity. There can be an educational value such as having the local pediatric dentist set up a booth and teach about dental hygiene in a fun way. Set up small but fun activities such as painting tiles for a montage of play to be mounted on a wall at a later date.
You can also have these organizations sponsor a booth and take care of manning it so your committee doesn’t get overworked in the process of the fun. The more people you involve, the better.
Invite fun people such as clowns to come and make animal balloons and/or do face painting, which is something that never seems to go out of style. Schedule entertainment such as dance groups to come and perform. This can help get more parents and children out to the event.
Invite youth groups such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters to exhibit. Don’t forget to involve the Chamber of Commerce and get it listed on the local community calendar and publicize it well.
Look to local engineering firms and other professional organizations for help with your project and events. You would be surprised how many of these are looking for a way to get involved with the community, and they may somehow not know of your project. One of the great things about this, as with the Habitat for Humanity referral noted before, if they aren’t able to help they may know of another organization that is. The network is usually alive and well in your community, tune in and use it.
There could be a way to involve almost every organization and business in your community in your fundraising efforts. Get your fundraising events listed in the local PTO/PTA newsletters. There may even be one liason from your local newspaper who keeps in touch with all of the local organizations, and this is a great way to let parents know what is going on with the project and how they can help out. Parents can lead you to other organizations and businesses they might work for or just even have an association with, which helps trickle to the next degree.
Some areas have a local sorority, which may have a need for a project. These organizations have been known to work with St. Judes and other charities, and some work with several at a time. You might see if your project fits within their scope. It has been said a thousand times, but it still rings true. If they can’t, they might know someone who can. Ask!
Talk with local Key Clubs or IDEAS Clubs at the high schools. They are looking for ways to enhance the community, and it’s such a great thing for the youth to be involved in projects that provide value. They can feel a great sense of accomplishment knowing they helped generations to come.
The bottom line is not to overlook anyone in the community. Everyone can help in some way no matter how small. Visit your local chamber of commerce, get a listing of all the businesses and organizations. Divide up your list between your committee members, and get dialing. You just never know who can do what until you ask.