AAOS Bulletin - April, 2005

Orthopaedists, sun both shine at playground build

Thanks to AAOS, thousands of D.C. children to enjoy new, safe, accessible playground

By Carolyn Rogers

To skeptics, the Academy’s plan to construct a playground in Washington, D.C., in mid-February seemed risky at best, foolish at worst.

They needn’t have worried. After six years, AAOS has learned that “When orthopaedic surgeons show up, the sun comes out!”

On Feb. 22, all doubts disappeared—along with the rains of the night before. By noon, the clouds had lifted, the sky was a clear blue and a brilliant sun warmed the nearly 500 orthopaedic surgeons and other volunteers busy building a safe, accessible playground for the children of Washington, D.C.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony marked completion of the playground. Pictured are: (left to right) Christine Beato, MD, acting assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Richard F. Kyle, MD, AAOS first vice-president; Leslie Hare, from sanofi~avertis Group, a Diamond-level sponsor; Tabitha Blackwell, from KaBOOM! and Skip McMahon, from Building Bridgers Across the River.

7,000 children within a mile

The playground was constructed at the site of a new 110,000 square-foot community center, known as THEARC (Town Hall Education, Arts and Recreation Center)—located in the District’s Anacostia neighborhood.

THEARC is the creation of Building Bridges Across the River—a nonprofit foundation of William C. Smith & Company, a Washington, D.C.-based multidisciplinary real estate firm. When the facility is completed, THEARC will house a music school, a 350-seat theater, music and dance performance space, a multi-screen movie theater and several other artistic and recreational components, as well as agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, the YMCA and the Washington Middle School for Girls.

With 19 elementary schools within one mile of the site, more than 7,000 children will have easy access to the new playground.

“Many of these children don’t have a safe place to play, so this will give them a central rallying place,” said E. Anthony Rankin, MD, the local host chairman.

“Until this community center was built, there was nothing in this area at all,” he said. “So it’s really a great site for a playground. It’s going to be well accepted by the community.”

The AAOS partnered with both Building Bridges Across the River and KaBOOM! to develop the playground. KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthy play opportunities for children by building safe playgrounds in areas of need.

An 8-hour shift

Michael B. Mayor, MD, works with daughter Athena to assemble playground supports.

Sun, food, drinks and energizing music boosted the already high spirits of the volunteers on hand, who included orthopaedic surgeons, their spouses and families, nurses, industry representatives, community members and many others. Experienced project managers were on site to oversee the build. Volunteers who preferred not to work in the actual construction zone performed site-beautification, clean-up and other projects.

The day began at 8 a.m., and the playground was completed less than eight hours later—just in time for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A large contingent of orthopaedic surgeons from Walter Reed Army Medical Center spent the morning digging holes, pounding nails, lifting equipment and pouring concrete before returning to Walter Reed to continue caring for wounded soldiers.

Surgeons from Walter Reed Army Medical Center came to participate in the playground build before reporting for duty.

“We’re really happy that the surgeons from Walter Reed could be here today,” said Dr. Rankin. “They’re very involved in taking care of the soldiers who are defending our freedom throughout the world, so we’re glad they could take some time out of their schedule to come out today.”

Employees from several federal agencies also joined the build in support for the Academy’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Healthy People 2010 program.

The contingent included Cristine Beato, MD, acting assistant secretary of the department of HHS.

An enthusiastic, energetic group of medical students and orthopaedic residents from Howard University Medical School—Dr. Rankin’s home turf—also showed up for playground duty, as did a couple dozen members of the local fire and police departments.

Why playgrounds?

The award-winning playground build program is part of the Academy’s ongoing campaign, Prevent Injuries America!, aimed at reducing musculoskeletal injuries.

All playgrounds built by the Academy and KaBOOM! feature a poured-in-place, rubber safety surface and ramped play structures with a variety of age-appropriate activities for children with and without disabilities. Each state-of-the-art playground enables children of different ability levels to play together.

Since AAOS and KaBOOM! began their partnership in 1999, they have built six playgrounds in Annual Meeting host cities: Orlando; Dallas; San Mateo, Calif.; New Orleans; San Francisco, and now, Washington, D.C.


“These playground projects are all about building a safe place for kids to play—particularly in neighborhoods like this,” said AAOS First Vice-President Richard F. Kyle, MD, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that afternoon. “This event reminds everyone that it’s very, very important to participate in physical activity, and a safe playground like this one is the place to do it!”

Dr. Beato addressed the volunteers at the ceremony, as did Leslie Hare, a representative of the playground’s Diamond Sponsor—sanofi~aventis. After KaBOOM! coordinator Tabitha Blackwell applauded the volunteers for their efforts, the day ended with a thank-you presentation by children from the local Washington Middle School for Girls.

“This program is so rewarding that state societies, hospitals and local practices are replicating it at the local level,” Dr. Kyle said. “It’s a movement that’s really caught on.”

AAOS extends its thanks to our partners in the playground build: Diamond—sanofi~aventis; Platinum-DePuy, a Johnson & Johnson Company; DePuy Mitek; Pfizer Inc.; Stryker Orthopaedics; Gold—GE Healthcare/Orthopedics; National Dairy Council; Smith & Nephew Orthopaedics; Smith & Nephew, Endoscopy; Zimmer, Inc.; Silver—BioniCare; KCI; Kmedic; Medtronic Sofamor Danek; Ortho Biotech; Bronze—Aesculap, Inc.; Aircast, LLC; ArthroCare Corp.; Bledsoe Brace Systems; EBI, LP; HealthTronics; Dr. and Mrs. Stuart A. Hirsch; Industrial Pharmacy Management; Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation; National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses; Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board; Paragon Medical, Inc.; Symmetry Medical Inc.; Synthes; Synvasive Technology, Inc.; Tecres, S.p.A.; The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery; Tornier, Inc.; Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

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