|Making Play a Priority: Huntsville is Named Among Most "Playful City USA" Communities
(HUNTSVILLE, AL) - For the third time in five years, Huntsville has been honored as a "Playful City USA," a national program advocating for local policies to increase play opportunities for children. The non-profit organization KaBOOM! created Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments ensure their children have the time and space they need to play.
Mayor Tommy Battle credits Huntsville's ranking to his administration's commitment to prioritize children's health and welfare through the City's Parks and Recreation department.
"Childhood obesity is a major social and health problem here in this country," said Mayor Battle. "Our objective is to have a playground within walking distance of every child in Huntsville so that any child can have unstructured play, anytime, on a safe, state of the art, play ground."
Only one and five children in the United States lives within walking distance of a playground. That's not the case in Huntsville. The City currently has 66 public playgrounds, comprised of 42 City of Huntsville parks and 24 Huntsville City School playgrounds.
In the past year alone, Huntsville's total expenditures for capital projects and improvements of playspaces for children was $275,000. The City's cost to maintain playspaces was $435,000. In total, that's more than $700,000 in funds dedicated to improving the mental, social, and physical welfare of our children.
The City, however, can't do it alone. The EveryBody Can Play Playground in Brahan Spring Park is a testament to the community's creativity and spirit in helping to provide a handicap-accessible playground for children and adults. Community groups, non-profit organizations and businesses contributed $325,000 for the project.
"This project was the focus of the local Optimist and Kiwanis Clubs, and what was most impressive was that we had more than 900 people contribute through physical work or fundraising," said Greg Patterson, Director of Parks and Recreation.
Patterson says the City is now working on plans to incorporate a water park in the Everybody Can Play Playground.
Just last year, a KaBOOM and Home Depot grant helped Huntsville fund another major playground for the James A. Lane Boys & Girls Club in Lincoln Village. Hundreds of volunteers, including corporate and civic organizations, helped contribute time and money to the project.
"Huntsville is honored to be recognized and supported by KaBOOM!," said Mayor Battle. "Hopefully, this will inspire adults and children to remember to take time out and play. There is always a park just around the corner."
Huntsville is one of three cities in the state and among 151 in the country to be recognized as a "Playful City USA."
KaBOOM! is the national non-profit dedicated to saving play. Children today spend less time playing outdoors than any previous generation, a fact that is having disastrous consequences on their health, achievement levels, and overall well-being. To fight this Play Deficit, social entrepreneur Darell Hammond founded non-profit KaBOOM! 15 years ago in Washington, D.C. with a vision of creating a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America. Since then, KaBOOM! has mapped over 85,000 places to play, built more than 2,000 playgrounds, and successfully advocated for play policies in hundreds of cities across the country. KaBOOM! also provides communities with online tools to self-organize and take action to support play on both a local and national level. Hammond chronicles the founding of the organization and the importance of the cause of play in his The New York Times Best Seller KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play. The book details how businesses and communities can work together to save play for children across the country. All author proceeds support KaBOOM!. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., KaBOOM! also has offices in Chicago and San Mateo, Calif. For more information, visit www.kaboom.org.
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