Contrary to what musician Eddie Cochran felt in 1958 when singing of his mid-year misery, there are plenty of cures for the summertime blues, with physical activity a reliable remedy. Eager to engender enjoyment as analyzing textbooks becomes a distant endeavor, youths yearned to learn of their options in experiencing June 19’s Philly Play signup session at Herron Playground, 250 Reed St.
“We want to promote cardiovascular health and emphasize our parks and playgrounds as wonderful assets,” overseer Kim Labno said as youngsters escaping the rain became cozy with her and a handful of helpers. “With today’s turnout, we hope to stress so many aspects of health and wellness and foster the creation of many friendships and the strengthening of others.”
The resident of the 1700 block of Wharton Street ventured to the Pennsport location in her capacity as senior program coordinator for the Health Promotion Council, an affiliate of the Public Health Management Corp. The latter entity has enjoyed a 42-year identity within the Greater Philadelphia area and teamed with 6th District Councilman Bobby Henon last fall to stage a Tacony-situated fitness campaign. The success prompted the politician to devise a citywide set of chances for children to enhance their well-being, with Labno thrilled to assist.
“We want to provide a nurturing environment where kids can get physically active, build their self-confidence and feel comfortable with their social interactions,” the Point Breeze occupant said. “Sports and activities are definitely vehicles for that.”
To solidify that sentiment, her employer and Philadelphia City Council on July 7 will launch a free six-week program for ages 8 to 12 throughout the latter’s 10 districts, including the South Philly-heavy First and Second district expanses. Enrollees will enjoy one hour of daily programming, with options depending on their history with traditional recreation center summer camp setups, demand and resources. Interactive nutritional education lessons via a 20-foot mobile truck dubbed the Farm Explorer and skill-building activities will constitute a significant portion of their opportunities, but sports and fitness selections figure to find the most acceptance.
“This looks really fun and athletic,” Jianna Frei said after conversing with Philly Play communications and public relations director Nicole Forrester. “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but it’s going to be cool.”
The Pennsport inhabitant and soon-to-be seventh-grader at Our Lady of Hope Regional Catholic School, 1248 Jackson St., became aware of the pop up event simply through walking by the site, which bore a banner extolling the benefits of obtaining sufficient exercise. An avid practitioner of volleyball, soccer and basketball, the 12-year-old will have occasions to enhance her appreciation of the last activity and explore baseball, football, jump rope and dance. Whatever their choices, she and friend Erin Marcobecchio, a fellow 12-year-old seventh-grader-to-be at Our Lady of Hope, will join other energetic individuals at Rizzo Rink, 1101 S. Front St., another Pennsport spot within the jurisdiction of 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla.
“This space is beautiful,” the resident of Front Street and Snyder Avenue said of Herron, whose sprinklers and jets have led to its designation as a “sprayground.” “It’s great to have such interest in a program that can really benefit so many lives.”
Last week’s gathering marked the second South Philly-situated introductory experience, as Vare Recreation Center, 2600 Morris St., drew dozens of dwellers June 14, with 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson leading the charge. He also attended Saturday’s pop up event at Chester A. Arthur School, 2000 Catharine St., through the South-of-South site’s Friends group and will make stops at Vare, the Second District’s host location, through Philly Play’s run, which will conclude Aug. 13.
“Philly Play is all about making connections, and we expect children to become friendly with one another, but we really want to help them to have experience with adults, too,” Labno said of the initiative’s plan to foster caring, understanding relationships between youths and mentors. “We’re very fortunate to have great people lined up to help them to get the most out of their commitment to the program.”
Maureen Fratantoni counts herself as a disciple of having youths receive enriching guidance and engrossing, energetic outings, so she brought her son James to register. Residents of the 1900 block of South 11th Street, they love supporting neighborhood projects, especially those that can quell the city’s struggles with childhood obesity.
“This will be great for him,” the East Passyunk Crossing-based matriarch said as her offspring tossed a football to Squilla. “It’s going to keep him occupied and dedicated to making friends.”
James, a recent graduate of George W. Nebinger School, 601 Carpenter St., will also experience a touch of novelty, as the 14-year-old, who has received permission to participate despite being beyond the age parameters, will play organized basketball for the first time. He could not hoist shots while at the Bella Vista facility because, his mother revealed, the School District of Philadelphia deemed the game too rough for him because of his presence on the autism spectrum.
“It’s fun to be out playing,” James, who also hit a wiffle ball and frolicked with the other youths, said before rushing to show off his pass catching skills. “I can’t wait to do it again.”
Come the conclusion of the cycle, which will occur with a Northeast Philly-situated ceremony, Labno hopes hundreds of registrants will have not only shed pounds but also gained gusto as they keep the summertime blues at bay.
“There’s been such support so far,” she said. “These children will be great examples of what can come from really expecting more from ourselves as their advocates.” SPR
Call 267-588-7286, or visit phillyplay.org.