NBAA Convention News

With help from many, aviation playground flies

 - September 24, 2007, 9:28 AM

When this year’s 60th NBAA show wraps up in Atlanta, unlike previous years, not everything will be packed and taken away. To celebrate the anniversary milestone, NBAA has partnered with Home Depot, one of its Atlanta-based constituents, and built a playground for local kids.

Fain Elementary School, located less than two miles from Fulton County Airport/Brown Field, found itself the beneficiary of the new aviation-themed playground and an outdoor classroom, built on Sunday by a small army of volunteers from NBAA and the local community. The idea hatched during convention planning as NBAA’s local committee members discussed ways to mark the anniversary. According to Bill McBride, Home Depot’s director of flight operations, the playground was a natural way to bridge the gap between the airport community and their neighbors.

 “Home Depot does about 150 builds per year throughout the country and what I proposed is that [NBAA] partner with Home Depot and come up with a community build to establish or to improve relations with the local community,” McBride said. “It’s a really exciting, thrilling thing to go out and build something. Whether it’s a day spent building a playground or a month building a home for someone, it’s pretty gratifying to give back to people in need.”

For its playground projects, Home Depot partners with KaBoom, a national nonprofit organization that aims to provide kids with safe play areas within walking distance of their homes. KaBoom was tasked with finding a deserving community, with the understanding that it needed to be near Fulton County Airport, the site of this year’s NBAA static display. “We were given some parameters,” said Jennie Councill, KaBoom’s associate director of client services. “It needed to be pretty close to the airport so that the group could make a difference in their immediate community, but the criteria is the community needs a playground–they don’t have one, or they may have one that is outdated or unsafe–and they have a good system to support the volunteer efforts but maybe not the financial resources to do it themselves.”

Those financial resources were mostly covered by Home Depot and NBAA. With a maximum price tag of $160,000, the playground ranks among the most ambitious of the more than 1,200 that KaBoom has overseen. Home Depot kicked in $50,000 for the project while NBAA picked up most of the remainder. As part of the deal, Fain Elementary School invested $10,000, while contractually promising to maintain the playground for the next 10 years. Along with the playground, school officials also requested an outdoor classroom, which was quickly included in the project planning.

A unique aspect to the playground is the design contribution made by those who will be using it. This past summer, students from the school were brought in to conceptualize their dream playground in a planning session led by KaBoom. Encouraged to put their wildest ideas on paper, the children’s suggestions were given to a playspace architect who then created three designs for the school to choose from. Once selected, the plans for the build were firmly in place.

Before Sunday’s build day, volunteers from the local community removed old playground equipment and cleared and prepared the schoolyard site for digging by identifying and marking any utilities in the area. On Saturday, the playground components were delivered, laid out and cataloged by KaBoom’s crew. When an army of NBAA member volunteers arrived at the site on Sunday morning, they were given name tags and assigned to a specific crew that was given a specific task. At the end of the day, a brand-new place for local children to let off steam was standing.

McBride admits to there being an ulterior motive for the gift. “You know Fulton County [Airport] is right in their back yard, so they might be thinking of aviation, but if they are also seeing it and touching it on a daily basis as a young kid, maybe they will get that passion and that urge and follow through in their later years and become pilots or technicians or operations people. I think there is just a ton of benefits from the whole thing,” McBride said.

The event reveived plenty of corporate support. Food and beverages were supplied by many corporations, including McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, Waffle House, Ted’s Montana Grill, Walmart, Starbucks and Coca-Cola. Several aviation companies also stepped up with support, including Bombardier, Dassault FalconJet, Gulfstream, Cessna and Flight Safety International.