December 2003 Bulletin

Help needed at 2004 playground build

Volunteer effort is key to success; plan to pitch in on Tuesday, March 9, 2004

By Stuart Hirsch, MD
If you haven’t yet volunteered to help with the Academy’s “Safe, Accessible Playground Build” project that happens each year on the Tuesday before the Annual Meeting begins in the host city, you won’t want to miss this rewarding experience.

The transformation is truly amazing. In just one day, Academy fellows, along with their families, staff, members of the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation, the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, orthopaedic industry, the local community and media will turn a barren space into an exciting, safe and wheelchair-accessible playground for the children of San Francisco. Please join the Academy and your colleagues on Tuesday, March 9, 2004, as a fellow volunteer and help us leave a legacy of safe, accessible playgrounds across the country.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 486,971 injuries occurred to children on our nation’s playgrounds in 2002. As part of orthopaedic surgeons’ commitment to injury prevention, safety and accessibility for those with disabilities, the Academy has continued to lead by example through building playgrounds that adhere to the highest safety standards and are accessible to children with musculoskeletal and other impairments. Because orthopaedic surgeons care for many children with disabilities and are often the first physicians to treat children who sustain playground-related injuries, building safe, accessible playgrounds is a meaningful and enduring way that we can demonstrate another facet of the positive effect of orthopaedics in our patients’ lives.

San Francisco children eagerly await new playground
Alvarado Elementary School, a public school located at 625 Douglass Street in San Francisco, only a few miles from the Moscone Convention Center, will be the site of the Academy’s fifth safe, accessible playground—a promise that began in 2000 to illustrate our commitment to playground safety and the goals of the Bone and Joint Decade.

AAOS President James H. Herndon, MD (left) and C.O.O. Lawrence E. Rosenthal, PhD, "kid around" at the 2003 playground build.

Members of the AAOS Board of Directors
pitch in and enjoy the day at the 2003 playground build in New Orleans.

Thanks to this project, children in Orlando, Fla.; San Mateo, Calif.; Dallas; New Orleans; and now San Francisco are the lucky recipients of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant, safety-certified playground with resilient surfacing, appropriately-sized rails and handles and a variety of equipment that provides rich play experiences for children with and without disabilities. The addition of a new, colorful, safe and accessible playground will be especially welcome in this urban San Francisco setting, which doesn’t have a blade of grass in sight.

Seeing the smiles on children’s faces as they watch their playground become a reality is heartwarming. A parent at one of the playground builds called the playground a “blessing,” because it meant that for the first time, her disabled child and her non-disabled child would be able to interact and play together on the same playground.

Children share their dreams at Design Day

Students at San Francisco's Alvarado
Elementary School show off their
playground designs, along with their
principal David Weiner, (second from right)
and Stephen Hurst, MD, (far right) the
2004 playground program chair.

Alvarado Elementary School and its principal, David Weiner, hosted a playground “Design Day” on Oct. 29, 2003. This event gave the school’s children, parents and teachers an opportunity to provide input on the playground’s development. With crayons, markers and their imaginations, students helped design their dream playground.

Orthopaedic surgeon Stephen Hurst, MD, the local playground program chair, was on hand to explain to the boys and girls what an orthopaedic surgeon does. He also shared with parents and students the reasons we’re so dedicated to this worthwhile project.

Representatives from the Academy, community playground building expert KaBOOM! and the playground equipment manufacturers will take all the ideas provided at Design Day and fashion them into the blueprint for the new playground. The most memorable drawing of the day, by a little girl, featured a swimming pool full of chocolate…a dream shared by many, I suspect, young and old alike!

The Academy works with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating safe places where children can play, to manage the construction of the playground. KaBOOM! identified Alvarado Elementary School through its nationwide database of community organizations in need of playgrounds that adhere to current safety and accessibility standards.

Success depends on you
The successful orchestration of this event, publicly demonstrating our collective commitment to accessibility, playground safety and injury prevention, depends on you, the orthopaedic surgeon, to participate. Please make the commitment to volunteer for this worthwhile and rewarding activity. It’s not easy giving up yet another day of our busy lives during Annual Meeting week. Human nature leads us to simplify, and to hope that others with more flexible schedules will take our place. However, this willingness to give of ourselves is the key to ensuring that this Academy investment is a success for everyone: volunteers, who feel good about the effort; industry, which supports it; and staff, who work hard to organize it. What better way to demonstrate what we believe and who we are: compassionate physicians who work hard to make the world a better place not only by caring for our patients and communities, but also by working to achieve a higher standard of playground injury prevention.

Visit the Annual Meeting section of the Academy’s Web site at to add your name to the volunteer list.

I hope you will join me in working on the playground. Make the commitment to volunteer today.

The AAOS gratefully acknowledges 'Diamond' sponsors Sanofi-Synthelabo and other members of the orthopaedic industry for their generous support of the San Francisco playground build.

Stuart Hirsch, MD, is chair of the AAOS Council on Communications.

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