Heather Carson understands that healthy communities offer safe playspaces for all their children, so in 2009 she founded the Go Play Initiative where she lives in Starkville, Miss. Her campaign brought together school educators, community volunteers and local organizations to build a playground for more than 1,000 third, fourth and fifth graders in the Starkville School District. But Heather made even greater impact when she advocated that Starkville apply to be recognized as a KaBOOM! Playful City USA community.

“While Starkville leaders believed in the value of play, it was the KaBOOM! Playful City USA program that provided the needed spark to make play a city-wide priority,” says Heather. With guidance from Heather, leaders from the school district, Parks Commission, civic organizations and local businesses joined efforts in 2011 to create the Starkville Play Task Force and make real and lasting investments in play. In October 2011 the Starkville School Board and Board of Alderman passed a joint use agreement, giving the public access to Starkville school playgrounds after hours. The school district also allocated additional city resources to maintain and improve neighborhood playspaces.

Heather demonstrated that one person can make a difference by spearheading the building of a great new playground and leading the way for her community to make important policy changes, giving all of its children access to existing school playgrounds that had been closed outside of regular school hours.