Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, Westlawn Resident Council, Humana Inc., KaBOOM ! and hundreds of volunteers create place for all generations to gather
In just six hours on Saturday, September 29, 2012, nearly 200 volunteers transformed an empty lot in the Westlawn neighborhood into a one-of-a-kind, multi-generational playground. The customized playground was made possible by the support of KaBOOM!, a national playground advocacy organization, and it was funded primarily by Humana, a leading health and wellness company.
“Humana is proud to help create a lasting neighborhood legacy that promotes healthy play and well-being among kids and adults alike,” said Rick Dahl, director of senior products for Humana in Wisconsin.
The Westlawn playground is one of 18 play spaces that Humana and KaBOOM! are building across the US in 2012.
“We are thankful that Milwaukee was chosen as one of the locations for these wonderful new community spaces,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “This playground will have a positive impact on kids, seniors and everyone in between.”
In early August, nearly 100 youth from the Westlawn neighborhood were invited to draw their dream playgrounds. Those drawings were combined with input from other local community members – including seniors – to create the playground design. In addition to the kid-friendly equipment, the area features senior-focused and adult elements, such as fitness stations and walking paths to promote good posture, balance and flexibility, creating a truly multi-generational space. The project also created an area to inspire family picnics and get-togethers for years to come.
Prior to Saturday, the families of Westlawn did not have a playground to call their own, nor were there any publicly accessible playgrounds in the immediate area. The new playground and multi-generational exercise stations provide the youth with an age-appropriate area to play, as well as opportunities for the seniors to interact further with each other and the community.
“This has been a wonderful community-building experience,” said Jackie Burrell, president of the Westlawn Resident Council. “We needed a place like this for kids to play and neighbors to gather, and we are thankful that KaBOOM!, Humana, the Housing Authority and all of our neighbors came together to make it happen.”
Alderman Joe Davis, Sr., who represents the area and was a member of the playground organizing committee, said, “This playground is a great addition to a great neighborhood, and the process of building it through community involvement has made the neighborhood stronger.”
The 2,500 square foot playground is an important piece of the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee’s ongoing revitalization plan for the Westlawn neighborhood, Wisconsin’s largest public housing community. The eastern half of Westlawn is currently being rebuilt from the ground up with 250 new affordable housing units and plans for additional market rate homes to create a new mixed-income community with an emphasis on healthy living. The playground will be the first new construction on Westlawn’s western half, and it will set the stage for the continued transformation of the neighborhood.
“This project fits perfectly with our desire to foster neighborhood environments that inspire residents to build strong, healthy lives,” said Common Council President and HACM Board Chair Willie L. Hines, Jr.
Volunteers for the playground build came from the Westlawn neighborhood, Humana, the Housing Authority, Silver Spring Neighborhood Center, City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Job Corps Center, UWM College of Nursing, Marquette University, Walmart, Graef-USA and other organizations.
Following an 8:30 A.M. warm-up led by State Representative-elect Mandela Barnes, the volunteers gathered in teams to put together the playground pieces and install, them at the site. “It’s important for these kinds of amenities to be in the neighborhood so that kids and seniors alike are encouraged to get out of the house and engage in healthy physical activity,” said Barnes.
Work wound down just after 2:00 P.M., and the volunteers were joined by Mayor Barrett and Senator Lena Taylor for the official ribbon cutting. The mood was jubilant, and the participants beamed with pride as they celebrated their accomplishment.
Senator Taylor congratulated the crowd, saying, “This playground is a fantastic development for the Westlawn neighborhood. It is an example of the good that can be done when people of diverse backgrounds listen to each other and work together.”