Let them play: Used playground equipment aids kids in Third World

  • Written by Kevin M. Coyne


The Chicago Ridge Park District plans to continue its effort that began last year to provide playground equipment to children in countries wracked by pestilence, war and natural disasters.

The park district last year forged a partnership with Rockford-based nonprofit group Kids Around the World in an effort to provide underprivileged children in impoverished countries with refurbished playgrounds. The district donated two playgrounds, one that was sent to Haiti and the other that went to Tanzania. Since 1994, Kids Around the World has built more than 300 playgrounds in 60 countries.

“We do a mixture of new and refurbished playgrounds in country and internationally,” said Kids Around the World administrative assistant Laura Biby. “We are up to almost 50 communities in Illinois, a lot of Chicago suburbs are donating their playgrounds and community leaders will help remove the playground prior to reassembly internationally.”

The 20-year-old playground donated to Haiti was in good shape, but time was right for the district to update its equipment, said Chicago Ridge Park District director Kevin King.

“Most of the time we would scrap the old equipment so working with a nonprofit like Kids Around the World is a win-win for the village, nonprofit and those who benefit from the new playground,” King added.

Playgrounds can range from $5,000 to $30,000 depending on its type and size. Working with Kids Around the World helps to defer the cost of destroying the playground, and benefits children who would otherwise be unable to utilize the refurbished equipment.

“We typically have a team doing one to five playgrounds and we can vary from five to 50 people helping to install the equipment,” said Biby. “All of our funding is from donations from churches, communities, businesses and individuals. Our funding goes to removing, refurbishing and assembling playgrounds at home and abroad.”

Strict regulations in the United States prohibit a playground deemed unsafe or unusable from being refurbished and relocated within the country; however, other countries have no such regulations, enabling park districts to donate their old equipment instead of destroying it.

“It’s great working with Kids Around the World so we are able to donate playground equipment that we would otherwise have to get rid of because of the rules,” King said. “Kids can now enjoy new playground equipment and our community feels great for helping less-fortunate kids in other countries.”