Guess Which Foundation is Teaming Up with NBA Players to Build Playgrounds?

Jamal Crawford, DeAndre Jordan, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens and J.J. Redick might not be experts in construction, but they are well-versed in the sport of basketball. The five Los Angeles Clippers players teamed up with The California Endowment and the Department of Recreation and Parks to refurbish and reopen a Los Angeles area playground and basketball court.

The California Endowment goes by the motto “health happens here,” and according to Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kathlyn Mead, these playground refurbishments are examples of hard work paying off. (Read The California Endowment: Los Angeles Grants).

Of course, the connection between playgrounds and health is obvious enough: Kids who are physically active and involved in sports are less likely to be overweight, and also less at risk for other problems. The California Endowment isn't the only foundation getting behind this simple idea, with funders in Chicago and other cities also investing in playgrounds and athletic facilities. 

The State Street Recreation Center is one of three playgrounds and court refurbishments that the organizations plan to work on early this year. The other playgrounds are located in South Los Angeles and Long Beach. State Street's upgrade includes new equipment, new paint, a fitness station, ground resurfacing, and a complete overhaul of the basketball courts. The facility hosts youth league basketball games and other sport activities at least four times a week.

“I wish I had a new court to go to when I was this age,” said NBA player Jamal Crawford, who has also helped open several new courts in his hometown of Seattle. “These kids, I’m sure they’ll take advantage of it. They were very, very happy to be out here today. This is their community, so they’ll honor it and use it.”

J.J. Redick said, “Youth fitness is an important thing and our country obviously has some problems with obesity and health. And if we can get them in the right habit early, I think it’s a great thing.” The NBA players joined a group of star-struck children and Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar at the State Street Recreation Center for a ribbon cutting ceremony in Boyle Heights.

The California Endowment devotes a sizable potion of its grantmaking budget to making neighborhoods like this one safer and healthier places for children to live and play. Within the foundation's “Neighborhoods” grantmaking program, the funder awards grants to provide safe play areas, fight junk food consumption, and make streets safer.

Boyle Heights is one of the 14 places that The California Endowment has committed to building healthy communities over a ten-year period with $1 billion of funding. Although the current application deadline has passed for program related investments, the foundation anticipates that a new round of funding will be announced in April 2014.