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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Among the many signs that this town will return to better times in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is a shiny new playground in the heart of downtown.

The colorful facility, which sports four swings, a triple-wide slide, tiny teahouse, high-tech zip line and sand box, was bought to town by Kaboom!, a non-profit group that focuses on helping communities build playgrounds throughout the United States.

It’s the first of many playgrounds the group hopes to help bring to Katrina-damaged areas. Bay St. Louis topped the list thanks to the efforts of town natives Virginia Reynolds, Cheryl Goodnow and Joellyn Gilmore, according to Kaboom!

Community members themselves turned out 650-strong on Dec. 17 at Carol Vegas Park, which surrounds the Old City Hall, to do the actual construction. Roped off for a week to let the concrete cure, the playground was opened for use over the Christmas weekend.

A number of children and teens took advantage of a sparkling afternoon on Monday to try out the new equipment.

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it's like tony the tiger....GREEEEEAT!!!!

As a resident with three young kids, we used to play at the park. THANK YOU SO MUCH for the upgrade!!!

Can't wait to see the NEW water park on the corner of Lorraine Rd. and Hwy 90 in Gulfport!!!!! My kids grew up going to the one that's no longer there. Had some good times there myself.

Thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers who have helped to make this a reality. As a mother of 3 who have yet to return home to our beautiful Gulf Coast, I am so happy to know that when we are able to return, that at least one of the places our children love to visit will be back, ready for them to enjoy. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Great idea to get this park cleaned up and usable, it not only looks cheerful but what a good purpose it serves. There is an organization in Charleston, SC called Operation Home. The mission is to coordinate emergency house repairs for the region's severely down-and-out. It's the type of repairs necessary to keep a family living safely in their home. This groupo relies on churches, businesses, and individual donors for funds. Sounds like the type of organization that could sure be used
in this hard hit area.

This was the most most amazing day I can ever remember..Being with old friends, working with 500 new ones, watching the joy wash over everyone there..Bay St. Louis will come back anew...The grace and courage of the people of Bay St. Louis will lift this sweet town out of the rubble, forward, towards the future...Thank you KaBoom!..You believed in us and the project, and made this miracle a reality...Together, we will work to restore childhoods to the children of the Gulf Coast, one playground at a time.

Ginny Vegas Reynolds

wow--this is cool. with the recent news of the casino reopening it is a darn shame that this didn't receive more media attention. congrats to all involved--very impressive and inspiring! gives me hope that things will not just return to normal but with projects like this it can be even better than it was. where can i learn more about how this all came about?

Very good to see and hear that finally some good things are happening for the people of the Gulf Coast. All we hear about here is New Orleans. I am concerned that too much attention has been given to New Orleans instead of the people of Missippi's coast.

When I heard a playground was coming to town I must admit my immediate reaction was shouldn’t we wait till we can rebuild the park the way we wanted to instead of accepting some small thing someone was going to donate. Boy was I ever wrong it is fabulous it is the best playground around not a hand me down like I was picturing I have two kids we have been at the playground everyday since it has opened and it is at the park where I see them happy and their playful imagination returned. This park gives me and my family the most hope. Elle, Diamondhead, MS

Neat where can my city sign up Biloxi not for the handout but for what seemed the heavy dose of hope and inspiration? Kenny

The Carol Vegas Park marks the beginning of a new beginning for the community of Bay St. Louis!! The sense of pride, accomplishment and hope that comes from the successful completion the first rebuild project will continue to boost morale and fuel motivation for many more rebuild projects to come. On the day of the playground build, several residents remarked that this was the first time since the hurricane that they smiled, let alone laughed. After all that they’ve been through, it was truly amazing to see the people of Bay St. Louis forget, for one day, the devastation and frustration of the hurricanes, and enjoy being part of a community again. This project would not have been possible without the hardwork, passion and vision of project spearheaders Ginny, Cheryl and Joellyn who refused to let Hurricane Katrina take the opportunity of a place to play away from a generation of children. I have no doubt that the unflagging “can-do” attitude of amazing residents and leaders like Mayor Eddie Favre and Jimmy Loiacano will continue to lead Bay St. Louis down the road to recovery from start to finish. Darell Hammond CEO & Co-Founder of KaBOOM!

I am so proud to see this, small as it may seem. Its a huge step towards normalcy. Bless this great company and the precious children that will play on it!:>}

what is the address of the playground--would like to go check it out this weekend with my kids and neighbor kids? thanks to all the volunteers and to kaboom. Ned

play is still play and that is what is normal for kids.

I have been reading these blogs for weeks and this is the the first that gives reason for at least the children to have hope. Thanks to the community for making this playground a first priority.

This is super, so happy to hear the good news for the community.

I'm organizing a similar type of volunteer playground in my town--Cleveland, OH. Reading that this was more than a playground and has lifted the spirt of the community is why we also are doing our project. It is not easy what you did especially in your conditions. Many thanks and Congrats. Amy

i learned of this from the kaboom newsletter and can't say how much this warms my heart and soul. nice work and to kaboom you continue to amaze and impress!

I am from Waveland. I left for the merchant marine in late 70. I have visited since, last in 92. I want to say hello to the hundreds of friends who have lost so much. My folks lost their home so I know how my dad feels. I was at a French medical center during the storm and I saw my town had been destroyed. I have tried to find friends and I know that some are safe and others I just do not know. I would like to know that my friends are safe. And hi to Don and Henry of Farrar and the Felders

my family is from long beach but i now live in nj. my question is was this a one off project or will kaboom be doing anymore in the gulf? frankly i'm getting tired of so many charties doing one nice thing that makes them and donors feel good or to attract media attention then no second or third wave of support. we should demand more and longer term support as such much more work still needs to be done.

What do the kids say or think of the playground/park? Is it really being used? Sorry to sound skeptical but is a playground really what is needed right now?

My weekend cottage is right around the corner from
this playground.. I can't tell you how pleased and
happy it made me to see this project in motion the last time I was there.. The children have been my greatest worry since Katrina..I know the horror I've felt, so, what must they be feeling and what effects does all the devastation have on them? This new playground will help put something normal back in their little lives.. It will be months before I can stay in my cottage again, but it certainly will be pleasing to hear children's laughter, when I do.. My most sincere thanks to all involved.. I just wish I'd been there to help..

Of course the kids are playing on it! I helped clean up that park 11 weeks after Katrina hit. There is a school across the street from it. Yes children really live in that devastated town and yes they need places to play and get away from their tents and trailors.

I had the pleasure of helping to organize this amazing community build at the Carol Vegas Park in Bay St. Louis. I have never experienced so much spirit, enthusiasm and joy in one day in my entire life and I cannot express how incredible of an opportunity it was to be part of such a memorable six hour day! Over 500 volunteers, half from the Bay St. Louis area and half from across the country, came together to enjoy themselves and show a sense of pride and spirit that I could never have imagined.
In order to pull off an entire playground as well as many additional side projects all in less than 6 hours you can imagine there was a great deal of planning. For two months the MORE than dedicated and compassionate committee members from Bay St. Louis put in hours after hours, days after days, of hard work to make sure this was a day of joy, and great memories for everyone in the Gulf area. The committee member's who helped in coordinating this playground build are the strongest and most spirited people I have ever met and they will always have a spot in my heart. Jo Gilmore, Ms. Nell Frisbie (Sugar), Jimmy Loiacano and Ginny Reynolds kept the process moving through humor and high hopes as we spoke each week on the telephone to check-in and plan. What a delight it was to work with EVERYONE in the Gulf area on this project! It was the best present I could have ever received for Christmas!
Jane Duket
Project Manager, KaBOOM!

The question was posed as to whether there will be a sustained effort by KaBoom! to continue to help the devastated Gulf Coast. The answer is a resounding, YES!... KaBoom understands that children must have a safe place to play regardless of the circumstances..The Build Date for Waveland, MS is on February 9th and on April 22nd you are welcome to join us in Pass Christian to build a beautiful new playspace in Memorial Park. This is a town where 80% or so of the homes were lost are severely damaged and where some of the town's kids spend their nights in windowless, Iraqi-military style tents. The need for play has never been greater...KaBoom! is committed to not allowing the childhoods of the Gulf Coast kids to become grist for the painfully slow rebuilding wheel. Plans for other playgrounds are being worked out now, and one by one, KaBoom! will help to restore play, joy and hope to the families of the Gulf Coast.

Virginia Vegas Reynolds

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