Advocate for Play Darell Hammond to Receive Inaugural American Express NGen Leadership Award

(WASHINGTON, September 8, 2010)  — Independent Sector is proud to announce that the recipient of the inaugural American Express NGen Leadership Award is Darell Hammond, co-founder and CEO of KaBOOM! — a national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving play for America’s children.

The American Express NGen Leadership Award honors one nonprofit professional under age 40 who has already had a transformative impact on a critical issue in society. By recognizing this individual’s contributions, the award calls attention to the promise and impact of emerging leaders.

“Through KaBOOM!, Darell has increased dramatically the opportunities for American children to enjoy the important benefits of play,“ said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “They have built more than1,800 playgrounds across the country and in the process have helped to strengthen and revitalize neighborhoods.”

Hammond was selected from a pool of five other distinguished finalists. The others were Charles Best, founder and CEO,, which connects donors to classroom needs; Jane Chen, co-founder and CEO, Embrace, which pioneers new technologies to aid the developing world; Aaron Dworkin, founder and president, Sphinx Organization, which engages minority youth through classical music; Rachel Lloyd, founder and executive director, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, which serves young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking; and Nancy Lublin, chief executive officer,, which enables youth to take action.

“These finalists highlight the caliber of the young leaders across the nonprofit and philanthropic community,” says Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “We are proud that the award has become a vital part of our commitment to supporting the development of emerging leaders in the sector.”

Darell was inspired to start KaBOOM! just after he moved to Washington, D.C., at age 24, when he read a newspaper article about two local children who suffocated while playing in an abandoned car because they didn’t have anywhere else to play. Since Darell co-founded KaBOOM! in1996, it has raised more than $165 million to support the construction of more than 1,800 playgrounds across the country. KaBOOM! has also pioneered free online resources and tools so communities can build playgrounds without its immediate involvement, a model that has spurred the construction of an additional 6,100 playgrounds.

Among the organization’s greatest achievements is Operation Playground. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Hammond promised to build 100 playgrounds in the Gulf Coast to address the critical need for fun places where children could play and adults could know their children were safe. KaBOOM! has since met and surpassed that original goal, and just finished their 136th build in the region since the storm.

This award extends Independent Sector’s commitment to encouraging emerging leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic community. Among IS signature programs is NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now, a special series of professional development sessions for nonprofit professionals under 40 taking place at Independent Sector Annual Conference. NGen has also expanded to include the American Express NGen Fellows program, which provides an accomplished and diverse group of 12 emerging leaders with exceptional opportunities to hone their leadership skills, strengthen their professional networks, and develop a collaborative project focused on issues important to young leaders.

Hammond will receive the award at the John W. Gardner Leadership Dinner October 21 at the IS Annual Conference in Atlanta. General Colin and Alma Powell will be receiving the John W. Gardner Leadership Award.

Nominations for the inaugural American Express NGen Leadership Award were evaluated by a selection committee of nonprofit leaders. The finalists submitted answers to brief essay questions, and those responses were posted on the IS website for public voting by NGen program participants. These results were considered by the selection committee during the final selection process.


Independent Sector is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of approximately 550 charities, foundations, and corporate giving programs, collectively representing tens of thousands of charitable groups in every state across the nation. Its mission is to advance the common good by leading, strengthening, and mobilizing the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Types: Press Release
Global Topics: Health and Human Services, IS Member, Leadership Development, Race, Equity, and Inclusion