April 2002 Bulletin

AAOS members leave legacy of fun in Dallas

Build safe, accessible playground in one day

By Carolyn Rogers

Orthopaedic surgeons accustomed to working long days in sterile operating rooms were treated to a very different type of work environment when they rolled up their sleeves and headed outdoors to build a much-needed "safe and accessible" playground in Dallas Reverchon Park during the 2002 Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas.

Clear blue skies, sunshine and 60 degree (F) temperatures greeted the more than 500 volunteers who gathered to build the one-of-a-kind safe, universally accessible playground for the children of Dallas. The mood was buoyant as orthopaedic surgeons, their spouses, industry representatives and members of the Dallas community—including current and former members of the Dallas Cowboys football team—worked side by side to construct the 7,367 square-foot playground in a single day.

The colorful new Reverchon Park playground is the third such playground built by Academy members and their local coalition partners. As part of its Prevent Injuries America! campaign, the AAOS pledged to help construct such a playground near the site of every Annual Meeting. Safe, accessible playgrounds previously have been built in Orlando, Fla. in 2000 and San Mateo, Calif., in 2001.

The Reverchon Park playground, however, is the largest, most comprehensive playground built thus far and is expected to serve as a model for the Dallas area as well as the rest of the country. As John M Purvis, MD, chair of the AAOS public and media relations committee pointed out, "This is Texas, so this one is bigger!"

The impressive volunteer turnout in Dallas was record-breaking as well and contributed to the festive ‘can-do’ mood of the day. Former Dallas Cowboy Randy White mingled with volunteers for much of the afternoon and current Dallas Cowboy Ebenezer Ekuban also contributed his time and efforts. Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders wound their way through the crowd, encouraging volunteers and leading groups of children in energetic dance routines.

Doctors and others unaccustomed to heavy manual labor quickly adapted to digging holes, tightening bolts, laying concrete and lifting heavy playground equipment. Participants quickly learned to dodge the ongoing procession of wheelbarrows full of wet cement being rolled through the site by fellow hard-working volunteers. The high level of organization involved was evident as project managers led groups of volunteers through the assembly of various playground structures, painting, landscaping and other projects. As a result, a dramatic transformation was already apparent by mid-day.

Orthopaedic surgeon Kim Templeton, MD, has volunteered at all three playground projects because she strongly believes that children with disabilities deserve the opportunity to play with other children. As a bonus, she adds, it’s a great chance to bond with colleagues in a relaxed, fun setting.

"It’s a wonderful way to give something back to the community, but it’s also an opportunity to see your colleagues in a different light," she said. "It’s a fun day."

Dr. Purvis proclaimed the project "a great success," but said the most important thing about larger, more visible playgrounds constructions such as the one just completed in Dallas is that they are inspiring state and regional organizations to organize safe and accessible playground build days in their own communities.

"Providing safe playgrounds where kids with and without disabilities can play together gives us the opportunity to prevent, not just treat, injuries," he adds. "Our hope is that orthopaedic surgeons and other participating in this construction project will be inspired to share their enthusiasm when they return home, leading to the construction of similar playgrounds in communities across the country."

The Dallas playground came together through a coalition partnership between the AAOS, the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, and the Dallas Park and Recreation Department. The partners also worked closely with KaBOOM!—a national nonprofit organization that leads teams of individuals, organizations and businesses in building safe playgrounds—and Boundless Playgrounds, an organization that advocates for, designs and facilitates the building of universally accessible play areas.

B. Stephens Richards, MD, an orthopaedist at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, says Reverchon Park was chosen for its close proximity to the hospital, for the multicultural community surrounding it and for its downtown location—convenient to the convention center.

John G. Birch, MD,(left), and B. Stephens Richards, MD, both orthopaedic surgeons at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, prepare to haul cement.

The new playground exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines for accessibility and offers a number of important safety features. The ground is covered in rubber and wood-fiber surfacing designed to absorb a child’s fall for the highest point in the playground, preventing major injuries. Wide ramps with no-slip surfaces allow a child to transfer from a wheelchair.

The new playground is made up of two age-appropriate play structures—one for children between the ages of two and five, and one for six to 12 year-olds. Injury prevention tips posted throughout the playground are also printed in Braille. Slides, swings, climbing and balancing activities, sun protection shades and a variety of play stations for imaginative activities make this the first public playground of its kind in Dallas.

Dan Casey, project Manager for KaBOOM! says the playground design was developed from input provided by neighborhood children and adults during a special "Design Day" held at the park. Casey reports that the kids asked for a raised playground—similar to, but lower than a tree house. Parents wanted more park benches and convenient trashcans. Both features were incorporated into the design.

With a sound system pumping out tunes to energize the crowd—and plenty of food and drinks to sustain them—the site was abuzz with activity from 7:30 a.m. until well after 4 p.m. A thank-you performance by an enthusiastic group of children from the neighboring community and a ribbon-cutting ceremony concluded the day’s events.

Academy President, Venon T. Tolo, MD, led the dedication of the new playground.

After receiving a few finishing touches, the playground opened to the public on March 16.

In addition to the Academy, Sanofi-Synthelabo was a primary sponsor of the Reverchon Park playground construction. Other organizations that helped make the playground possible are:

Abbott Laboratories

DePuy, A Johnson & Johnson Company

DePuy Casting

DePuy AcroMed

Medtronic Sofamor Danek


Stryker Corporation

Stryker Howmedica Osteonics

Stryker MedSurg Group

Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals

Aventis Pharmaceuticals

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas


Procter & Gamble


Smith & Nephew

Zimmer, Inc.

Aircast, Inc.

Beere Precision Medical



Fluoroscan Imaging Systems, Inc.


Sulzer Orthopedics, Inc.

Wright Medical Technology, Inc.

Bledsoe Brace Sytems

Exactech, Inc.

Huntleigh Healthcare

The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery

National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses

Symmetry Medical, Inc.

Tecres Spa

Tornier, Inc.

Reverchon Park playground

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