By Debbie Adams
Vinton has a new Community Playground thanks to the combined efforts of Vinton Baptist
Church, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia (BGCSWVA), the KABOOM!
organization, and the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) – in addition to volunteers
who put in countless hours of their time; businesses, organizations, and individuals who donated
their money and goods; and those who prayed for the project.
The national non-profit KABOOM! awarded a playground grant to Vinton Baptist and the Boys
and Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia, one of eight awarded across the state. KABOOM! is
dedicated to “working to end space inequity for good,” to remedy the reality that “far too many
children do not get the chance to play on a playground, something that should be part of every
Their work is to ensure every child can experience the numerous physical, social, and mental
health benefits of play regardless of background or where they live.
Since it was founded in 1996, KABOOM! has “built or improved over 17,000 play spaces,
engaged more than 1.5 million community members and brought joy to over 11.5 million kids,
all in partnership with child-serving nonprofits and municipal agencies.”
he playground project is also part of VFHY’s commitment to empower Virginia’s youth to
make healthy choices by reducing and preventing youth tobacco and nicotine use, substance use,
and childhood obesity.
Vinton Baptist houses a Boys and Girls Club program afterschool on weekdays during the school
year and all day during the summer.
That partnership with the Boys and Girls Club began during the COVID pandemic to temporarily
provide a learning environment for children who needed childcare while schools were closed or
After COVID restrictions eased and schools reopened, the BGCSWVA asked the church to allow
them to establish a permanent program at the church. That program now serves 48 children in
grades K-5, mainly students from Herman L. Horn and W.E. Cundiff Elementary Schools in
Vinton Baptist Pastor Travis Russell says that one of the things that has been missing from the
afterschool program is an outdoor play space. While they have a great deal of room inside the
church and a spacious gym, the church and the BGCSWVA were eager to add an outdoor play
area to “promote healthy kids.”
KABOOM! reached out to the Boys and Girls Clubs as part of their initiative to award grants to
build eight playgrounds across Virginia in 2023.
The Boys and Girls Clubs’ central location on Ninth Street in Roanoke City already has a
playground (as did all the others in the region) so they reached out to Vinton Baptist to apply for
the grant – which it did with full support from the congregation.
Andy Nicely, one of the church members heading up the project, says this is “an exciting project
and the church voted unanimously to move forward with it.”
Each playground is custom-designed by children and community members through a fun process
that culminates in the volunteer playground build day.
KABOOM! wants the playgrounds to be community-led projects built with a local vision.
Children in the Boys and Girls Clubs program at Vinton Baptist, as well as their parents and the
church congregation, were asked to draw a design of what they envisioned the playground
should look like and include.
Once the grant was awarded, a date was set for construction, October 25-27, as a three-day
community-build. Dozens of volunteers were recruited to prepare the site, unload materials,
assemble equipment, put the playground in place, and shovel mulch, as well as deal with the
sheer logistics of running the three-day operation. Volunteers were told that “no special skills
were necessary to participate.”
After months of planning, the church and community came together to build the playground,
which is located at the corner of Poplar Street and East Washington Avenue. The land is owned
by the church but has stood vacant for 20 years.
Mike Stovall, another member of the congregation spearheading the project, noted that Russell
had been encouraging the church to “move outside its walls and into the community” since he
came to the church.
This playground will be used by children at Vinton Baptist, from the Boys and Girls Club
program, and also children in the community. Russell says the project will “help the church meet
its goals of fostering relationships, sharing God’s love, and building community.”
Stovall also said that the playground will leave a legacy and impact the community for years to
Russell says that one advantage of the location of the new playground is the plentiful parking at
Vinton Baptist just across the street. The church will partner with the town to add crosswalks.
The fence will be slatted on the Washington Avenue and Poplar Street sides for more privacy,
and Vinton Police will continue patrols of the area as always.
The playground is open to the public as of Wednesday, November 1, from dawn to dusk and will
be locked at night. While all area children and families are invited to come play, there will be
times when the playground will be prioritized for Boys & Girls Club play.
There were several speakers at the ribbon-cutting with the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce
on October 27. The students from the BGCSWVA were applauded as they entered and took front
row seats for the event. Vinton Mayor Brad Grose said that it was truly an exciting day in Vinton
and thanked the multitude of partners for their efforts.
“So many people jumped in to help when they heard about the project,” said the mayor. “That’s
what happens when you do the right thing for the right reasons for all the children of Vinton. The
Lord has blessed this project. It is a great example of what a partnership can do – and that’s what
Vinton is all about.”
KABOOM! Project Manager Jeff Hardy cited some specific statistics about the Vinton
Community Playground. Over three days, volunteers moved 240 cubic feet of mulch, built a
shade shelter, two picnic/game tables (one ADA accessible), and a Gaga ball pit, installed slides,
and moved over 16,000 pounds of concrete into 40 holes to anchor the equipment. Seventy-five
volunteers were there on Friday alone.
“Dreams do come true,” he said.
He also thanked those involved for their hard work and effort in bringing the project to fruition.
In particular, he expressed appreciation to Emily Pinkerton of the Boys and Girls Clubs and
Jenny Martin from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.
All the partners involved in the build had lengthy lists of those who had contributed in one way
or another, including the congregation at Vinton Baptist and other individual contributors,
members of Vinton Town Council who made the playground part of their budget process,
neighboring Lotz Funeral Home, Vinton Moose Lodge 1121, M& M Transfer, the BGSWVA,
Mountain View Real Estate, the Vinton Breakfast Lions, the Dogwood Restaurant, Pok-E-Joe’s,
the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Wilkerson Group, Bank of Botetourt, Capps
Building Supply, Oakey’s Funeral Home, U.S. Cellular, Brown Edwards, Branch Associates,
Wells Fargo, Cox Communications, McDonald’s, Bojangles, Pizza Hut, New York Pizza, and