Every kid deserves a playground, but as 10-year-old Dominic Ballou astutely observed, not every kid is allotted one.
The fifth-grader from Saint Joseph, Minnesota moved into a low income neighborhood when he was a 1-year-old, after his mother Amber Wiese went through a difficult pregnancy, became a single mom and went back to school. The family fell into debt.
Growing up there, Dominic soon realized he didn’t have a great place to play, and has now taken it upon himself to build better playgrounds in the poorer communities of the city. He’s raised over $3,000 so far, and enlisted the support of Rainbow Play System, an outdoor recreational supplier, to match what he raises for equipment.
“Not many kids play in the playground right now, and a lot of kids are not allowed to,” Dominic tells Ellen’s Good News. “Mostly they just play in the parking lots. If we got a new playground, they would actually play and they would be able to run. We’re also going to try and get them a place to bike, because they’ve been biking in the parking lot too.”
Dominic describes his community’s playground as worn down, rusty and dilapidated. It’s made of metal equipment that becomes slippery and dangerous when wet.
According to Wiese, the area took a hit during the recession, and the park was the first thing sacrificed to budgets, despite the fact there are over 50 kids living there.
“Because it’s government funded, a lot of money that our neighborhood is receiving is going to basic maintenance,” she explains. “We’re the only part of the city that doesn’t have public busing, and a lot of kids’ parents don’t have vehicles to get out of the area so they’re stuck in the neighborhood for the summer. We need better equipment.”
Not only is Dominic aiming to spruce up his own community, he went to a nearby mobile home park and has volunteered to build a new park there as well. The aim is to have it completed by July, and have one in his community by August, if the funding comes through for it.
The family has set a goal of $10,000. Dominic also aims to collect donations for a community garden, BBQ area and bus shelter.
“I would like it to be beautiful,” Dominic comments. “Red and blue with beautiful wood, and also swings and slides and monkey bars and maybe a little sandbox.”
The works, indeed! Dominic cannot believe the support he’s getting for his project.
He says, “I am very surprised!”
If you would like to contribute to Dominic’s playground fund, you can donate by contacting his mom: firstname.lastname@example.org