Telling a New Narrative about the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina: Operation Playground 10

August 28th 2015

Tomorrow, Saturday, August 29, 2015, marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. But, of course, you knew that, because for the past 10 days (more in some cases), news outlets from across the country and around the world have been talking about the anniversary. Social media has been abuzz with the hashtag #Katrina10 made popular by both the City of New Orleans (@Katrina10) and National Public Radio (@NPR). Many of the stories have been similar to what was told at the five year anniversary mark – a rehashing of that terrible time when the levies broke, the destruction that followed, the heroes that emerged at a time people needed them most, and of the resilience of the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

We have also been gearing up for the anniversary, our sports and lifestyle experts and MFAction team working together (as we so often do) to elevate the news. We, however, have made an effort to tell a new story, to help facilitate a new narrative overall, and most importantly to emphasize the rebuilding work that continues and is still needed now and in the future in the Gulf Coast. It has been an honor to do this on behalf of our client partners and friends at KaBOOM!, the national nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that all kids get the balanced and active play they need to thrive. KaBOOM! was asked to visit the region just months after the storm in 2005 in order to help put kids first – kids who were getting lost in the aftermath of Katrina – and to put those kids first by doing what KaBOOM! is the master of: building playgrounds.

Before this week, we began telling the story to media and to thought leader influencers who might want to get involved. It was a story of disaster, rebuilding, resilience, community rallying around play, the ways in which play truly can help kids overcome trauma and combat toxic stress, and a story of an organization that took a major risk in order to help communities in the affected Gulf Coast region and scale up their activities (and playground creation) in the places that most needed it. And here’s what sets it apart: KaBOOM! has never left, and 10 years later is still deeply entrenched and beloved in the region.

This week, we had to chance to see that the impact KaBOOM! has had there with our own eyes, a few of us traveling down to New Orleans to represent KaBOOM! at the #AtlanticNOLA thought leadership panel, at the #Katrina10 Media Center, to Periscope KaBOOM! involvement, to interact firsthand with the press who are covering the week’s anniversary events, and arguably in the most special way, to roll up our own sleeves to help our ‘Boomer’ friends (along with superstars like Marlon Jackson of the Jackson 5 and Harlem Globetrotters like ‘Big Easy) build two new playgrounds.

And it won’t stop there; KaBOOM! will be back in the Gulf in November for another playground build and will have then helped facilitate the creation and improvement of just shy of 200 play spaces throughout the region hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Three people can sum up the meaning of KaBOOM! work and the results – and what community and kid-focused recovery truly means – even better than I can.

The first, is President Obama who traveled down to New Orleans this week while we were there and said that the area’s recovery effort and community rebuilding overall was “an example of what is possible, when in face of tragedy and in the face of hardship, good people come together.” He also commented on something at the heart of KaBOOM! work: equity for all kids, no matter where they live. “When almost 40% of children still live in poverty in this country, that is not a finished job, that is not a full recovery. The work is not done yet.”

Journalist Evan Grossman from Men’s Journal wrote in a feature piece on KaBOOM! efforts that “The idea is that freedom to play has a profound impact on children. Studies have found that playtime fosters creativity, nurtures brain development, builds self-confidence and strength, and is also therapeutic for children dealing with anxiety issues. In the aftermath of Katrina, the need for playgrounds, which can also serve as a social hub, was apparent.”

And former NBA All-Star, current Time Warner Sports Broadcaster, and newly christened KaBOOM! ambassador Antawn Jamison speaking to Sports Illustrated about his work with KaBOOM! since Hurricane Katrina spoke about the importance of play in a child’s life, especially in disaster-stricken areas.

So while the buzz this week has been loud and the attention on the anniversary vast, our ultimate mission is one we share with KaBOOM!: after these six days of the anniversary week, let’s not forget about the people of the Gulf Coast, least of all our new friends and all those deserving kids in New Orleans. Let’s keep telling the story whenever and wherever we can to ensure that those who lost so much are now able to gain so much more, through rebuilt communities and the possibilities of play.

You can check out more press about the KaBOOM! post-Katrina here.

To learn more about Operation Playground and its impact in the Gulf throughout the past 10 years, visit

By Silvie Snow-Thomas, Director, MFAction

About Silvie:
Silvie leads MFAction, Mfa’s division for social good marketing and communications. She had the honor of traveling down to New Orleans this week to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina with her clients and friends from KaBOOM!, and would like to personally apologize to President Obama for missing him on this trip. It’s okay, though, two high fives with the President in one year might be getting just a little greedy and she’d like to share the POTUS meet/greet love with others.

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