KaBOOM! Seabees, Sailors Improve Lives of Katrina Survivors

Story Number: NNS080722-16Release Date: 7/22/2008 4:52:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Lavender, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 Public Affairs

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (NNS) -- Seabees and their shipmates assigned to various commands throughout the Gulf Coast voluteered to help build a playground at the Marsha Barboura Community Center in Pass Christian, during a KaBOOM! project July 19.

KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, has built over 1,450 playgrounds across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"Our mission is to create a great place for children to play within walking distance of their homes," said Wayne Farmer, KaBOOM!'s director. "The best part about it is that we don't define what great is; the children and community members do. They design the playground they want to have and submit it to us."

Following Hurricane Katrina, many community centers and playgrounds were left devastated.

"The children were left with nowhere to play. So KaBOOM! made a pledge to build 100 playgrounds throughout the Gulf Coast area. We lined up funding partners for the projects while the local communities apply to be a recipient of a playground."

The community plays an important part throughout the process, including organizing the actual day of construction.

"It's important that they are actively participating," added Farmer. "They get to see the entire process and in the end, are left with a sense of accomplishment and pride."

More than 200 volunteers came out to help build the playground, including more than 100 Sailors.

"Seabees go out and build structures for other countries all the time," said Chief Builder Brian Guillemette, a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 Seabee and KaBOOM! volunteer.

"When given the opportunity, we'll gladly come out even on a nice, sunny day to do volunteer work in the local community. It certainly builds my confidence further in the Navy when I see fellow Seabees out helping others. These guys have just finished a field exercise and the battalion's retrograde, yet they're still out here, willing to give up their free time voluntarily to give something back to the community."

The project ended with a ribbon-cutting and officially opened the playground to local children.

"It feels good to volunteer in these kinds of events," said Builder Constructionman Apprentice Jeremy Gutshall, a Seabee assigned to NMCB 7.

"The satisfaction I get from volunteering is knowing that I've helped out the community and children who needed it. It's extremely hot out here, but I've gotten to help build something that many children will appreciate. It's these kinds of projects that show that the Seabees are not just only fighting for our country and helping foreign countries improve their quality of life but out help making the local community a better place."

For more news from Naval Mobile Construction Batallion 7, visit www.navy.mil/local/nmcb7/.

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