We at KaBOOM! are on a mission to save play, but we can't do it alone. That's why we love grassroots advocates who work on the ground in their own communities to get more kids playing outdoors. Two such advocates—Wanda Cheeks of Southside Unity in the Community and Liza Sullivan, a participant in the KaBOOM! Park-a-Day Summer Challenge—shared their experiences with playmakers from around the nation at the Conference on the Value of Play in Clemson, S.C., hosted by the US Play Coalition.
The conference convened a diverse audience of educators, parks and recreation staff, healthcare professionals, researchers, parents, and playworkers to reflect upon the state of play in the United States, and to consider strategies for creating a stronger network of play advocates.
The combined experience of Wanda and Liza demonstrates the power and possibility of play advocacy. In nine years, Wanda transformed simple family outings to the park in Spartanburg, S.C., into an all-volunteer community development organization with over 60 active members that gathers children, youth, and adults to clean up parks, celebrate play and playspaces, organize community playground builds, and mentor schools and organizations in the community-build process.
In a single summer, Liza and her children successfully completed the KaBOOM! Park-a-Day Summer Challenge, visiting 50 community parks and playspaces in the Chicago area, and documenting those visits through blogs, photos, and contributions to the KaBOOM! Playspace Finder. Her visits and reflections on her children’s development draw attention to the cause of play and heighten community knowledge of local play resources—or their scarcity.
And the two playmakers’ advocacy continues! Wanda is currently in the process of making Southside Unity in the Community a non-profit and plans to host a block party in coming weeks. She’s also rallied Spartanburg to become a Playful City USA for four years and will certainly do the same in 2011.
Liza is busy authoring an article for an early childhood alliance newsletter on the Summer Challenge, organizing to form a Chicago-area Coalition for Plan, and making plans to spend her children’s final pre-kindergarten year engaged in the Challenge, exploring parks and playspaces and watching the growth and development that occurs.
Listen to Wanda and Liza talk about their work, and get inspired!