March 21, 2008

Atlanta mayor challenges other cities to become more playful

By Mayor Shirley Franklin
Appearing in the March 24th edition of Nation Cities Weekly
Published by the National League of Cities

In 2007, Atlanta was named an inaugural Playful City USA community by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit that empowers communities to build playgrounds. It wasn't just because we worked hard on trails that link our parks and communities; it wasn't just because we had thousands of great places for kids to play — it was also because of the efforts of the many Atlantans devoted to making our city the best city in which to raise children.

Our great city will always step up when it comes to creating a better life for our children. The tangible evidence of this spurred Cynthia Gentry, founder and chairperson of the Atlanta Taskforce on Play (ATOP). This public/private partnership applied to KaBOOM! for Playful City USA recognition and went on to receive a $25,000 grant to help train community leaders on how to build playgrounds so that there will be a playground near every child in Atlanta by the end of 2010. With hundreds of community leaders like Cynthia out there, all of Atlanta's children will be healthier, happier and smarter because they have great places to play.

When the people of Atlanta elected me to be their mayor in 2001, I knew I had my work cut out for me. Atlanta was facing a multitude of problems. With a neglected infrastructure, struggling schools, and communities failing to address basic quality of life issues, I knew I needed to unite Atlantans to work together for big positive changes in order to establish the city as a beacon of progress, hope and opportunity. Experience has taught me that a government can't do this on its own. I knew we needed to find people and empower them to make a difference.

Every community has a next-door neighbor like Cynthia who is willing to step up. Find yours. Everyone has the power to give back and make their community better. Get started! Every community has people who can organize projects and volunteer their time. Get yours moving. Create your own task force on play to work with your City and your Parks Department and do what you can to become a Playful City USA.

Details: Atlanta was selected as one of 31 Playful City USA communities in the inaugural year of the national recognition program administered by the KaBOOM! National Campaign for Play. KaBOOM! is a national non-profit that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

Shirley Franklin is mayor of Atlanta.

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