Councilman Bobby Henon and staff wrapped up their Philly Play Summer Challenge initiative on Wednesday, August 13 at Vogt Recreation Center in Northeast Philadelphia, garnering 3,000 attendees.
“Philly Play turned out to be a bigger project than any of us expected,” the councilman said.
Philly Play, which was created by Henon in 2013 in his 6th District, promotes free and low-cost activities for children and young families as a preventative health measure. This past May, the initiative expanded city-wide after being adopted by city council as a whole. The goal, said Henon’s Director of Communications Eric Horvath, is for kids to get at least an hour of physical activity every day.
“Too many kids are overweight or obese – both in Philadelphia and nationally – and it’s a problem that the councilman wants to confront in a proactive manner rather than on reactionary health care spending later on,” said Horvath, citing obesity-related medical costs and chronic preventable diseases combined as totaling nearly a third of all health care spending in 2010.
Every council member, (with the exception of newly-elected Councilman Ed Neilson, who was sworn into office earlier this month), either attended or hosted a Pop-Up Play event in their district. District 3 Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell hosted a kickball/healthy community dinner at Christy Rec Center, while Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez co-hosted a football event with Henon in District 7.
At-large council members had their pick of the city. Bill Greenlee, alongside Henon, held a basketball event at Pelbano Rec Center in the 10th District. David Oh treated Philadelphia children to martial arts instruction during the Summer Challenge wrap-up event on August 13.
Fighting childhood obesity may be Henon’s primary objective with Philly Play, but fostering relations within the community has been a side effect.
“When the program began, we heard from the Department of Health that, in surveys they did, many residents knew about recreational facilities, but didn’t necessarily think they were for them,” explained Horvath. “So they wouldn’t use them.”
“A lot of times, these kids are just looking for activities and a safe place to play,” Henon said. “Giving them a positive, safe space to play is a huge step in making connections to recreation centers and leading a healthy lifestyle.”
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While Philly Play has been successful in introducing children and families to the opportunities their local rec centers provide, Horvath also mentioned the initiative has also exposed children to sports and activities they might have never had the chance to play – like lacrosse.
What about data? Where is the proof that the campaign is working?
Henon’s office has employed the services of Drexel University’s School of Public Health to evaluate the cardiovascular health of kids who took part in a six-week long camp program.
“There’s nearly one-third of our kids that are overweight or obese – which means we have a lot of work to do,” said Henon. “But it’s not impossible, as long as we approach it in a proactive, positive fashion.”
Photo via Philly Play’s website-30-
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