West Park Receives ‘Playful City USA’ Designation

(Pictured from L to R): Commissioner Thomas Dorsett; Dan Millien, Public Works Superintendent; Mayor Eric H. Jones; Commissioner Rita Mack; Commissioner Sharon Fyffe; Cesar Garcia, Park and Recreation Superintendent; Maritza Prebal, Assistant to the City Administrator; and W. Ajibola Balogun, City Administrator.

With only 1-in-5 children in the U.S. currently living within walking distance of a park or playground, 151 cities and towns, including West Park, earned recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM! as 2011 Playful City USA communities for their efforts to increase play opportunities for children.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is important to healthy brain development and allows children to use creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Today’s children spend less time playing outside than any previous generations, in part because only 20 percent live within walking distance of a park or playground. This Play Deficit is having profound consequences for kids physically, mentally and socially, because children need a place to play every day in order to be active and healthy.

A key platform in combating the Play Deficit is Playful City USA, a national program advocating for local policies that increase play opportunities for children. KaBOOM!, the national non-profit organization dedicated to saving play, created Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments address the Play Deficit by ensuring their children have the time and space they need to play.

“As a City, we are honored to be listed among those that participate in making play for our children a priority, and providing the adequate space to facilitate the necessary activities. In the past, children often heard the phrase, ‘Go play outside.’ Their parents and caretakers knew that youngsters could burn off excess energy and improve strength and coordination, when they enjoyed healthy play. But, the attraction of video games and computer games along with the highly regimented lives that many modern children lead means they sometimes don’t spend enough time actively playing. I believe that active play is important for the proper development of several aspects of a child’s life and we, the Commissioners and staff in the City of West Park, are proud to be selected as one of the “2011 Playful City USA” communities through KaBOOM!”
– Mayor Jones

Hailing from 38 states and one territory, the 151 Playful City USA honorees are making a commitment to play and physical activity by developing unique local action plans to increase the quantity and quality of play in their community. In doing so, some of the most innovative concepts and costeffective programs are being developed in Playful City USA communities.

In the fifth year of the annual program, 19 Playful City USA communities received recognition for the fifth consecutive year, while 24 earned honors for the fourth time, 29 for the third time, 30 for the second time and 49 claimed their first Playful City USA designation.

For the fourth consecutive year, Florida paced the nation with 20 Playful City USA communities. California earned secondplace with 14 communities after sharing runner-up honors with Arizona in 2009 and 2010. Arizona finished third with 11 Playful City USA communities.

Each of the 2011 Playful City USA communities demonstrated creative commitments to addressing the Play Deficit. Playful City USA celebrates and highlights these unique initiatives developed by communities across the country. A primary goal of Playful City USA is to encourage cities and towns to share creative ideas, concepts and programs in an effort to increase play opportunities for children.

KaBOOM! also selected West Park for its outstanding dedication to play. West Park will partner with its Business Advisory Committee to promote new business involvement in sponsoring the creation of additional playspaces. This will help the city increase the number of playspaces and opportunities for play. West Park is committed to the well-being of children and serves as an outstanding role model for the rest of America as we continue to strive toward the KaBOOM! vision of a great place to play within walking distance of every child.”

The 151 Playful City USA communities are now eligible for grants via Let’s Play – a community partnership led by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group to get kids active nationwide. The first Let’s Play initiative is a $15- million, 3-year commitment to KaBOOM!. Together, through Let’s Play, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and KaBOOM! will build or fix up 2,000 playgrounds by the end of 2013, benefiting an estimated five million children across North America.

For more information on the KaBOOM! Playful City USA program, including Let’s Play grants and applications for 2012, visit www.kaboom.org/playfulcityusa.

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