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BCBSMT Helps Bring Play Back to Billings Park with One-day KaBOOM! Build

Sep. 08, 2015

Play now begins at Trails End Park.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) recently joined forces with KaBOOM!, Billings Parks and Recreation, Billings Kiwanis Club and many others from the Magic City to rejuvenate dilapidated Trails End Park with a new playground.

"Children are the foundation of our future," said John Doran, director of public relations at BCBSMT. "And playing on a playground is fun. Anything we can do to help our children build healthier lifestyles, and have fun at the same time, only helps them grow up to be healthy adults who enjoy active lifestyles.

"Billings was the perfect partner and we couldn't have been more thrilled to roll up our sleeves with the community to rebuild Trails End Park."

In a span of just six sunny hours on Saturday, Aug. 29, more than 170 volunteers assembled slides, swings, climbing structures, picnic tables, benches, a sandbox, a shade structure and a new sign; mixed and poured cement; and moved and raked level massive piles of mulch to prove a safe playing surface. Volunteers also worked with children to paint decorative tops for picnic tables that added even more life to a lively and magical event.

"One of the things that stood out to me the most about build day was the sense of excitement," said Billing Parks and Recreation Volunteer Coordinator Chris Waite. "The volunteers seemed happy to show their support of this community project. It was impressive to see how quickly the playground started to come together. I was impressed to see people who started the day as strangers bond over the connection of doing something good for the community."

Like KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, BCBSMT believes in the benefits of play. The Billings project was part of an ongoing effort to improve the health and wellness of Montana's greatest resource — its children.

"The playground, along with the new amenities, has revitalized Trails End Park," Waite added. "It has been such a joy to see the neighborhood come out and re-discover this community space.

"Seniors can now be seen taking a stroll and enjoying the new benches. Children have been excited to test out the new play equipment. One of the biggest benefits to this project is the community involvement. Many of the neighbors who were a part of the project feel a sense of pride and ownership over this playground."

Each year, BCBSMT, in partnership with KaBOOM, helps build one playground in Montana. Last year, BCBSMT completed its first build at East Helena's Main Street Park. Not only did BCBSMT provide volunteers and sweat equity to the Billings build, but also contributed $85,000 toward the project's total cost of $100,000.

KaBOOM! playground builds, which are part of BCBSMT's Healthy Kids, Healthy Families initiative, are one way the company continues to serve the state of Montana.

Already this year, BCBSMT awarded $50,000 Healthy Kids, Health Families grants to Helena's Kay McKenna Youth Foundation, Bozeman's Thrive, Missoula's Western Montana Mental Health Center and Billings' Riverstone Health Foundation to help improve the health and wellness of Montana's children and families. That's in addition to many other grants and sponsorships awarded throughout 2015, coupled with thousands of volunteer hours contributed by BCBSMT employees.

In 2014 alone, BCBSMT awarded hundreds of sponsorships and grants to organizations throughout Montana totaling more than $500,000, while nearly 250 employees committed more than 4,500 volunteer hours. Employees also donated more than $38,000 to the 2014 United Way Giving Campaign, helping 31 nonprofit agencies in Helena alone. BCBSMT's Care Van mobile outreach program, meanwhile, partners with public health officials, community clinics and other practitioners to administer vaccines, with the goal of maintaining and increasing vaccination rates and providing important health information. And every June, BCBSMT presents the Governor's Cup marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, and Kids Marathon and Fun Run in Helena to promote the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices. Since that event's inception in the mid-1970s, more than 125,000 participants have crossed the finish line.

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