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Building A Better Playground

Potomac youth spends her bat mitzvah helping others.

Many teens spend their bat mitzvahs dancing with friends and trying to sneak an extra sip from the wine cup, but Lexi Klein, a 12-year-old seventh grader at Hoover Middle School, was busy helping the Washington community.

Klein used her bat mitzvah to initiate building a playground at Covenant House in Southeast Washington.

“You’re supposed to do a good deed for another community,” Lexi Klein said.

The Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam, translated “fixing the world,” is an active form of charitable work frequently practiced by teens entering adulthood, a time marked by the bat mitzvah (bar mitzvah for boys) ceremony.

“She’s really taking into account the full meaning of this milestone,” said Lynn Klein, Lexi’s mother.

Lexi Klein’s sister had participated in a similar program in Chicago. “When she got back she talked about how fun it was,” Lexi Klein said.

So she contacted KaBOOM! a non-profit organization which helps build playgrounds in areas which need them. “They’re a wonderful organization to work with,” Klein said.

“She and her family have been acting as our funding partner,” said Mark Lindquist. KaBOOM!, has overseen the building of more than 480 playgrounds nationwide, typically sponsored by corporations. This is only the second time such a project has been sponsored by a private family, Lindquist said. “The Klein family has been really tremendous to work with,” Lindquist said.

Lexi Klein has been working on the project for some time. She started thinking about it about a year ago and has been participating in weekly conference calls and monthly visits since February.

“She always has great questions to ask,” Lindquist said. “Lexi is the most extraordinary young woman I have ever met.”

Lindquist is not the only person impressed by the Lexi Klein.

“A birthday is a time that usually you’re celebrating yourself, but she’s taking the opportunity to give back to the community,” said Judith Dobbins, director of program services for Covenant House.

The playground was constructed in an area behind the Covenant House facility in Southeast Washington.

Covenant house helps youth aged 16-21 by providing them with a place to stay and frequently job training opportunities. Many of the youths have children of their own.

“We have a child care center that’s part of the program,” said Dobbins. “The playground will be a compliment.”

The area where it was built has a small stream and some trees. “It really does have the feel of a park,” Dobbins said.