This June, Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries Center was selected as a finalist in the Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that will award outside-the-box ideas to make play easy, available, and fun for kids and families in cities across the U.S. The Challenge is hosted by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all children, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.
Bridge of Grace created an innovative plan to convert some church parking lots in Southeast Fort Wayne’s Mount Vernon Park neighborhood into a network of engaging play and recreation spaces Monday- Saturday, or on days when the lots are not in use. “Lots of Fun!” was selected as a finalist out of a pool of more than 1,000 applications nationwide. Winners will be announced in early fall, 2016.
The Challenge, developed in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Target, Playworld, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts, attracted an outpouring of creative ideas to spark kids’ imaginations and get their bodies moving. Bridge of Grace’s idea came from a passion for getting kids and families more involved in physical activity and the community revitalization process. If awarded the grant, Bridge of Grace plans to involve the community residents and youth in the process of designing and installing each play space.
“Recent surveys of residents have revealed that youth and adults would like to see the neighborhood become a more beautiful place, with more space for social and recreation activities. This project will not only improve the variety and availability of play and social spaces in the neighborhood, but also provide an opportunity for local residents, young & old alike, to be an integral part of that effort.” said Bridge of Grace’s Community Development Coordinator, Réna Bradley.
“We were astonished at the number and quality of the applications we received,” said James Siegal, CEO of KaBOOM!. “To us, it shows a huge, untapped potential to reimagine cities with kids in mind, and boost their opportunity to get the play they need to thrive. And when kids thrive, cities thrive.”
Kids need play to grow up healthy, resilient and ready for life. Research shows play is vital to healthy brain development and is pivotal to how kids learn problem-solving, conflict resolution and creativity–in other words, the skills they need to succeed as adults. Yet today, too many kids, especially those growing up in poverty, are missing out on play because of families’ time pressures, the lure of screens, and a lack of safe places to go. Meanwhile, evidence shows missing out on the chance to play puts kids at risk for challenges ranging from obesity to anxiety to trouble adjusting in school.
Bridge of Grace staff is thrilled at the possibility that kids in Southeast Fort Wayne could win this fantastic new opportunity to learn and develop from play, and hopes that it will be just the beginning of a larger effort to make play a way of life for kids and families in our community.
Winners for the competition will be selected in fall 2016. To learn more about Bridge of Grace’s ideas for making play happen everywhere in Southeast Fort Wayne, please contact 260-744-4446. More information about Bridge of Grace can be found at www.bridgeofgracecmc.org.
To learn more about the Play Everywhere Challenge, including a gallery of ideas for what Play Everywhere could look like across the U.S. please visit http://kaboom.org/playeverywhere