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Local communities top 'Playful City USA' list | Community Spirit

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Local communities top 'Playful City USA' list
Local communities top 'Playful City USA' list

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 New Port Richey, North Port, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor from the greater Tampa Bay region, earned recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM! as 2011 Playful City USA communities for their efforts to increase play opportunities for children.

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 cost-effective programs are being developed in Playful City USA communities.

For the fourth consecutive year, Florida paced the nation with 20 Playful City USA communities. 

Locally, KaBOOM! selected New Port Richey, North Port, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor for their outstanding dedication to play. Here is what stood out in each location:

  • New Port Richey will improve the quantity of playspaces by building a new playground at Sims Park. The city also engages community members from its Youth Advisory Board to implement more play opportunities.
  • North Port uses Neighborhood Fun Days to bring attention to the city’s neighborhood park system and create a low cost, family-oriented event with an active theme for play. The idea for this ongoing program originated from North Port's first Play Day and its success has spurred the expansion of the program to other parks.
  • Oldsmar collaborates with local sports leagues and schools on joint-use agreements to increase access to playspaces for community youth. The city also plans to promote pride in the parks by creating an Adopt-a-Park program.
  • Safety Harbor champions play through media engagement, including school announcements, social media outlets and print materials. During the month of September, banners, flyers and signs cover the town advertising the Month of Play and Play Day. 

“The Play Deficit continues to harm our children and stifle their mental and physical development, while directly facilitating the ongoing childhood obesity crisis,” said Darell Hammond, KaBOOM! Founder and CEO and author of The New York Times Best Seller KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play. “These 151 Playful City USA communities have joined KaBOOM! in making a collective statement that we will no longer accept the misconception that play is a luxury when the reality is that play is an absolute necessity for children. New Port Richey, North Port, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor are committed to the well-being of children and serve as outstanding role models 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, and recipients will be announced on Monday, Sept. 19. A total of 103 grants worth $2.1 million are available to Playful City USA recognized cities and towns between 2011-13.

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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