Lifestyle

Mercer Island named one of 67 “Playful City USA” communities

Island toddlers, from left: Jordan Balousek, Ruby Madden and Asha Sanda play around a sign awarded to the city of Mercer Island during the indoor playground session for ages 6 and under at the Community Center at Mercer View, Thursday. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Island toddlers, from left: Jordan Balousek, Ruby Madden and Asha Sanda play around a sign awarded to the city of Mercer Island during the indoor playground session for ages 6 and under at the Community Center at Mercer View, Thursday.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

What does Mercer Island have in common with Los Angeles, Yuma, Ariz., and Grand Prairie, Texas?

Mercer Island was one of 67 communities across the country named a “Playful City USA” for taking innovative approaches to make play a priority. Mercer Island will be celebrating this honor with the Worldwide Day of Play on Sept. 27.

KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit, selected Mercer Island for its dedication to play. About 14 percent of the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department’s budget is devoted to spontaneous play, including approximately 300 staff hours per year caring for outdoor playspaces throughout the Island. Mercer Island also recently gained a special new community member: a 6-foot frog mascot to promote local parks among kids. Children can meet “Leap” the frog at local parks and community celebrations.

Further efforts to promote play in the community include a “Destination Recreation” program designed to get kids out in the community and to playgrounds throughout the year. Island children can also pick up their own “Passport to Recreation,” then visit recreation sites, classes, activities and events from the passport. Kids who turn in their completed passports will be entered into a drawing to win a travel package valued up to $500.

The Worldwide Day of Play event will take place on Saturday, Sept. 27, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Mercerdale Park (77th Avenue S.E. and S.E. 32nd Street). Kids will have a chance to romp around with enormous inflatable cubes, frisbees, hula hoops, jump ropes, a giant parachute and field games. The event is inspired by the Nickelodeon Channel, which will go dark for several hours on Sept. 27 to encourage families to make time for play.

Playful City USA is a national recognition program that honors cities and towns across the nation that put their children’s well-being first by recognizing and harnessing the power of play.

KaBOOM! and qubo, the television and online service for children, announced the list of 2008 Playful City USA communities and will support the initiative with an extensive marketing campaign.

“In a time when communities are struggling with critical financial decisions, Mercer Island proved its commitment to the cause of play by launching creative initiatives designed to increase access to play spaces, improve the quality of play in their community, and increase the time children spend playing,” said Darell Hammond, KaBOOM! CEO and co-founder. “The ideas range the gamut, from new programming and access initiatives to creating informational resources and public private partnerships. It just goes to show you, where there’s a will, there’s play.”

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