Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ottawa recharged as ‘Playful City’

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 5/10/2013

Ottawa recently received news that put a little spring in city officials’ steps.

The community has been designated as a 2013 Playful City USA community by the national nonprofit organization KaBOOM! Sponsored by the Humana Foundation, Playful City USA is a national program from KaBOOM! that promotes local policies that increase play opportunities for children, according to a city news release.

Ottawa recently received news that put a little spring in city officials’ steps.

The community has been designated as a 2013 Playful City USA community by the national nonprofit organization KaBOOM! Sponsored by the Humana Foundation, Playful City USA is a national program from KaBOOM! that promotes local policies that increase play opportunities for children, according to a city news release.

“I am thrilled to see Ottawa again selected as Playful City!” Sara Caylor, Ottawa mayor and member of the city’s Play Task Force, said. “This is our fourth time being selected as a Playful City, and it just gets better each time.”  

Play Task Force’s partnership with the Ottawa Recreation Commission and the Ottawa school district were instrumental in helping the city earn the Playful City USA designation, Caylor said.

Task force members are working with school officials at Lincoln Elementary School, 1102 N. Milner Road, Ottawa, to bring “Peaceful Playgrounds” to the school, the news release said. Peaceful Playgrounds is a program that encourages the addition of painted games and other activities on the playground and has been shown to increase physical activity, the release said. The games provided increase motivation to play, motor skills and community involvement and reduce injuries, task force members said.  

Playful City USA communities are eligible to apply for $15,000, $20,000 and $30,000 grants via Let’s Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which Ottawa plans to seek, Wynndee Lee, the city’s planning and codes director, said. Grant recipients will be announced in the fall, she said.

“We plan to apply again for one of these grants and feel confident that with our previous experience, we will compete well,” Lee said.

Ottawa plans to replace the timber playground at Forest Park and has been fundraising since last fall, Lee said.

KaBOOM! developed Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments address the lack of play, the release said.

“Kids need to play actively, every day, at home, in school and in their communities, yet play is disappearing,” Darell Hammond, founder and chief executive officer of KaBOOM!, said. “Children spend nearly eight hours a day in front of a screen; almost half of all poor students are deprived of recess; and to make matters worse, only one in five children live within walking distance of a park.

“Playful City USA communities like Ottawa are creating innovative programs and initiatives and deserve recognition because of their efforts to give kids the childhood they deserve and best prepare them for their future,” Hammond said.

This year’s 217 Playful City USA honorees from 43 states range in size from seven-time honorees such as San Francisco and Spartanburg, S.C., to first-time recipient Ellsworth, Kan. (population: 3,100), the release said. In addition to Ottawa and Ellsworth, other Kansas communities earning the designation included Lawrence, Parsons, Derby, Liberal and Troy.

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