April 2004 Bulletin

AAOS builds playground at city school

By Carolyn Rogers with Nancy Fehr

Unseasonably warm weather, blue skies and a celebratory atmosphere greeted the nearly 500 volunteers who descended on San Francisco's Alvarado Elementary School on Tuesday, March 9, to construct a one-of-a-kind safe, accessible playground as a public service and gift to the community.

As volunteers put the final touches on the playground, school children join community leaders and new AAOS President Robert W. Bucholz, MD, for a festive ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Orthopaedic surgeons, their spouses, industry representatives and members of the San Francisco community joined together to build the colorful new playground — the fifth one funded and built by the Academy. A gift to the Annual Meeting host city, the playgrounds have inspired similar projects across the country organized by orthopaedic state societies and other local orthopaedic groups.

The playground came together through the effort of the AAOS, community partners, Alvarado Elementary School and the San Francisco Unified School District, in conjunction with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that helps build accessible playgrounds.

“Each year, we look forward to providing a new, safe playground where kids with and without disabilities can play together,” said James Herndon, MD, AAOS 2003-2004 president. “Our hope is that it makes a difference in peoples' lives by giving us the opportunity to prevent, not just treat, our young patients' injuries.”

An 8-hour shift
Excited school children anxiously awaited the end of the school day for a chance to glimpse their new playground — one that hadn't existed when they arrived at school that morning. The large number of volunteers were able to build the playground in just eight hours.

Adult and child volunteers painted a large colorful mural, which was designed by a local artist to highlight the importance of safe, appropriate physical activity, accessibility and movement to children and families, while the playground was being constructed.

Community volunteers paint a large mural depicting happy children playing sports and being physically active.
“The volunteers were a great blend of orthopaedists, members of industry, nurses and community members—even members of a UCLA fraternity pitched in,” said John Purvis, MD, chair of the Public Education and Media Relations Committee.

This project “speaks to our caring attitude as orthopaedists,” he said. “Many of these folks have worked on previous playgrounds, which is great to see. They're willing to give up a day's practice to be here because they believe in the value of the project.”

Ron Smith, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon from Newport Beach, Calif., and his wife Wendy volunteered again this year after a great experience at the 2001 San Mateo build.

“It was just a great day,” Dr. Smith says. “The spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm was palpable. It's such a worthwhile project, it gives you a real sense of satisfaction.”

Accessible to all children
The new 10,274-square-foot playground offers important safety features and exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for accessibility, so kids with impairments won't be left out of the fun. “Being able to join in on the playground helps children to develop social skills and enhances their physical development,” Dr. Purvis said.

The surface of this playground is different than previous years, according to Dr. Purvis. “We used a rubber surface, so we didn't haul as many wood chips. Also the urban location meant the space was a little tighter, less spread out.”

In addition to the rubber safety surfaces, the playground features wheel-chair-accessible ramps, age-appropriate play structures for children 5 to 12 years old, and safety signs in Braille and Spanish. Several slides and imaginary play components were also included, along with climbing and balancing activities—including a play wall that simulates rock-climbing.

Kids helped in design
A special “Design Day” held at Alvarado Elementary School last August gave students and their parents a chance to offer input on the playground's design.

David Weiner, principal of Alvarado Elementary School, believes the project demonstrates how industry can partner with public education to create something of benefit to the entire community. “We are most grateful for the generous support of AAOS in developing a new playground for the children, teachers and parents of Alvarado Elementary School,” he said. “The playground addresses a fundamental need in this area —a place for children with and without disabilities to play together safely.”

UCLA fraternity pitches in
When Richard Santore, MD, vice president of the California Orthopaedic Association (COA), mentioned the playground project at home, his son Chris thought it sounded like a great service project for his fraternity, the UCLA Cal-Delta chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE).

The COA was so impressed with the students' desire to help with the playground, they agreed to fund the travel expenses for 20 students to enable them to participate.

The SAE members flew up the morning of the build.

“I thought this could be a great new tradition,” says Chris Santore, a 20-year-old sophomore. “This is such a worthwhile project, and it's a fun excursion, too. And there are a lot of aspiring surgeons in the group, so it's also a unique opportunity to interact with surgeons in a casual setting.”

“Everyone was so welcoming and so accommodating,” said 20-year-old Justin Pritchard, an aspiring surgeon. “It was nice to get away from the rigors of academics and help out the doctors at the same time. And it felt good to work with your hands, too—there's a real sense of accomplishment.”

Support appreciated
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, school children sang and danced for the volunteers to thank them for their new playground.

Also deserving of thanks are the following companies whose generous support helped make the San Francisco safe, accessible playground possible:

Diamond sponsor: Sanofi-Synthelabo

Platinum sponsors:
DePuy, a Johnson & Johnson Co.; Ortho Biotech; Smith & Nephew Endoscopy; Smith & Nephew Orthopaedics; Stryker Corporation

Gold sponsors:
DePuy Mitek; GE Medical Systems Orthopedics; Henry Schein, Inc.; Zimmer, Inc.

Silver sponsors:
Aircast, Inc.; Carl Zeiss Surgical, Inc.; KMedic Orthopedic Surgical Instruments; Medtronic Sofamor Danek

Bronze sponsors:
ArthroCare Corporation; Aventis; Bledsoe Brace Systems; Dr. and Mrs. Stuart A. Hirsch; Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation; National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses; Opus Medical; Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board; OsteoBiologics, Inc.; Paragon Medical, Inc.; Skyscape; Symmetry Medical, Inc.; Tecres Spa; The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery; Tornier; Wright Medical Technology, Inc.; Wyeth

Special thanks also to the California Orthopaedic Association, the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation and UCLA's SAE fraternity.

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