Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Recognized for Championing Play

() · 

As municipal and thought leaders from around the country gather in Baltimore to chart a path to ensure all children get the play they need to thrive, one such leader, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, will be awarded the inaugural Playful City USA Leadership Award for his substantial investments in play.

“Cities are critical drivers for achieving play outcomes and most play-focused infrastructure investment, policies and programming happen at the local level. That is why we give special recognition to municipal leaders who prioritize play,” said Darell Hammond, Founder and CEO of KaBOOM!, at the 2013 Playful City USA Leaders’ Summit, sponsored by the Humana  Foundation. “I am delighted to recognize Mayor Rahm Emanuel for championing play throughout the great city of Chicago, with the first Playful City USA Leadership Award.”

“Thank you KaBOOM! and Humana for this honor. Five years from now, every child in the City of Chicago will be within a seven minute walk from a new park in our city,” said Emanuel in a video address to the crowd. “In addition to what we’re doing with our playgrounds and parks throughout our city, we added an hour an 15 minutes to every school day, and we also added two weeks to every school year,” he continued. “Our kids no longer have to choose reading or recess.”

“Through multiple investments, Chicago is increasing access to playgrounds and other play spaces, while also dedicating more time for kids to play, both in and out of school,” continued Hammond. “Mayor Emanuel is working in partnership with agencies, foundations, corporations, and other key stakeholders, to give all children in Chicago the childhood they deserve, and is a shining example and inspiration to others.”

Chicago’s investments in play in schools include:
  • Guaranteed every public elementary school student in the city a 45-minute lunch and recess to relax, re-boot and return to the classroom ready to learn. 
  • Helping to develop 60 learning gardens, using $1 million in NATO legacy funds, which provide students with play spaces in their school communities while offering them hands-on nutrition and science education opportunities. 
  • To increase time for play and physical activity during the school day, Chicago Public Schools, with support from the Healthy Schools Campaign, set new guidelines and requirements for students in nutrition education and physical activity by updating the Local School Wellness policy. 
  • Chicago received $4.4 million over two years from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support implementation of Healthy CPS (Chicago Public Schools), a component of the Mayor’s Healthy Chicago initiative, the city’s first multi-agency public health agenda.
Chicago’s investments in play in communities include:
  • Committed to seeing that every child in Chicago has a quality park or playground within a seven-minute walk of his or her home within the next five years.
  • Committed to rebuilding 300 playgrounds across Chicago over the next five years, ensuring that these playgrounds offer meaningful play opportunities by providing new physically challenging and adventurous playground equipment.
  • In partnership with Take the Field and Slam Dunk, Chicago will have rebuilt 100 basketball courts, as well as 47 artificial turf fields in different neighborhoods, by the end of 2013.
  • Through Chicago Summer of Learning, nearly 230,000 summer learning opportunities and youth jobs were available to Chicago’s young people across 100+ organizations. Many of these learning opportunities integrated outdoor activities and playful learning activities, including exploring STEM learning at park district programs, healthy cooking activities with Common Threads, and creating artifacts using 3D printers.
Play is critical to the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and creative development of children. However, a healthy balance of active play is falling victim to TV, video games, structured schedules, declining recess time, and a lack of access to safe play spaces. Initiatives like those being implemented in Chicago are critical to ensuring that all kids get the childhood they deserve.

KABOOM! is the national non-profit that works to achieve playspace equity. Kids who don’t have access to play miss out on childhood and are denied critical opportunities to build physical, social and emotional health. And all too often, it more deeply affects communities of color. So we amplify the power of communities to build inspiring playspaces that spark unlimited opportunities for every kid, everywhere. KABOOM! has teamed up with partners to build or improve 17,000+ playspaces, engage more than 1.5 million community members and bring joy to more than 11 million kids. To learn about our goal to end playspace inequity for good, visit and join the conversation at,, and