As part of the excitement and celebration of the new Disney movie, McFarland, USA, More than 200 Disney VoluntEARS, KaBOOM! (a non-profit organization) and members of the cast and community of McFarland, all worked together to build a brand new playground in the neighborhood. The playground inspired by children’s drawings created in an earlier event in January, included a kid friendly playspace as well as an adult exercise section and a spot in the shade for parents and older community members to enjoy. The new playground is one of many that have and will continue to be built through the longstanding relationship between Disney and KaBOOM!. Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living, an initiative that partners with parents to inspire kids to lead healthier lives, will bring the magic of play to over 83,000 kids and families by the end of 2015.
The event which began early in the morning in an empty lot was crawling by the time I arrived at around 2 pm. In the area for the premiere screening of McFarland USA later that evening in Bakersfield, I decided to visit McFarland and take a tour of the town. A wrong turn off the freeway exit, led us to the playground where we immediately decided to check out the event.
I was able to meet and get a few words from several community members and cast, including Chief of Police, Scot Kimble, Carlos Pratts as well as the Mayor of McFarland, Manuel Cantu, Jr., who were among the crowd involved in everything from assembling the equipment to stamping down the dirt and shoveling the cement. Denise McNamara, with the police department shared it was a joint effort between Disney and the Tri-agency partners (city, school and parks district). Scot Kimble, Chief of Police talked about how Disney wanted to give back to McFarland so everyone joined together to build a playground. Scot explained how kids and parents selected the colors and helped design the playground. What should have been a 6 month process, was completed in 6 weeks and the actual work was done within a 6 hour time frame, today. Kimble described how excited everyone was to be able to build a playground and mentioned how it was also a great boost for the east side of the city who has always been a bit behind over the west side. Carlos Pratt, who plays Thomas Valles, was happy to talk to me and shared how the movie had given him more family than he ever had before. Coming from a small family, he now has the 7 runners (cast members) and Kevin (Costener) as well as many of the original runners. I asked Carlos if the closeness and friendship in the movie had continued off screen. Carlos said they were a big family, not that they did not fight but the love they all had was true. Carlos Pratt shared the rumors floating around about him being considered for the next Spider man movie and said he would love to be a superhero and would do an amazing job, if given the chance. Johnny Sameniego (one of the original runners) commented that Carlos played the part of Thomas very well. Mayor Manuel Cantu, Jr gave me a few moments and shared that the movie coming at this time has given the community a big boost. The movie has done incredible things and with the help of the partners like Disney, KaBOOM! and the Tri-agencies as well as the community support, McFarland had so much more to accomplish and there is so much more to come.
The joy and pride was evident in the faces and voices of the people I spoke with and the excitement even after 7 hours of physical labor was a pleasure to watch as they stomped down the dirt to the beat of music blasting from huge speakers. Making that wrong turn off the freeway was the best part of my afternoon. If you are ever in So. California, take a few hours and head up north to McFarland, as the Mayor said it’s “a great little place full of good people.”
Don’t miss McFarland, USA on February 20th in theatres nationwide and let me know if you love it as much as I do. Don’t for get to check out my articles for entertainment news and updates on www.chipandco.com.