Brandeis, partners help local children draw playful future

New playground to be constructed at Prospect Hill on Sept. 17

Photo/Mike Lovett

Dozens of children from the Prospect Hill neighborhood in Waltham gathered last Tuesday afternoon to imagine their ideal playground. Slides, swings and monkey bars emerged in the colorful, crayon-scrawled blueprints the community’s youngest residents created as their parents surveyed the future playground site, now just patchy grass.

On Sept. 17, a playground inspired by their drawings will be built in a single day, providing almost 200 neighborhood children with a safe place to grow physically, emotionally and cognitively, thanks to a partnership Brandeis has formed with several organizations. The new playground will join a soon-to-open community center.

Together with Bentley University, the Waltham Housing Authority (WHA) and KaBoom, a national playground organizer, Brandeis is working on the project’s logistics, as well as raising 10 percent of its $85,000 price tag. The other two partners, UnitedHealthcare and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, have donated the rest of the funding. Volunteers from across the partner organizations, including students, will build the playground, as well as a raised-bed community garden.

“Community outreach has been at the core of the Brandeis mission since our founding,” said Lucas Malo, Brandeis’ director of community service. “For years, Bentley and Brandeis have been building partnerships with local schools, non-profits and community members; the Prospect Hill initiative propels us into a new era of student engagement and partnership.”

Brandeis enjoys a longstanding relationship with WHA, providing free after-school programming on campus four days a week, while working to renovate the community center at Prospect Hill. Currently, the Prospect Hill neighborhood has only one small, dilapidated playground within a mile’s walk. This scenario is not unusual: According to UnitedHealthcare, only one in five children in the country live within walking distance of a playground.

“I think this is great. It’s the first time I’ve seen something like this happen here,” said Sara Sanchez, who lives with her two daughters in the Prospect Hill community, a diverse group of nearly 150 families who speak more than two-dozen languages, and whose average household income is less than $20,000.

“They are doing it right from the start — involving the kids, the people who are going to use it,” said Waltham mayor Jeanette McCarthy at the kickoff event. “It’s a lot of work on everybody’s part and I’m very appreciative.”

The partner organizations will work together over the coming weeks to plan and execute construction of the playground. To kick it off last Tuesday, children excitedly ran around the WHA’s new community center and basketball court, playing, sharing ideas and getting autographs from former Patriot Patrick Pass.

“It’s nice to see so many people here,” said resident Tissan Ximines, who sat with her 2-year-old. “People have been talking about it because there isn’t much to do at the little playground we have.”

If you’re interested in donating to the project, email Lucas Malo for more information or call him at (781) 736-3237.

Categories: General, Humanities and Social Sciences, Student Life

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