By: Lydia LaSure
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.J. – Most children get excited about summer break. No school, no homework, no hassles. While free from a lot of the stresses of the school year, we hear of many kids who do little else but sit around and look at their electronic screens all day. Well, not anymore!
Play Streets is here so no more sitting around bored—it’s time to come out and play!
Lisa Romano, a community builder for Holly City Development Corporation (HCDC), has been involved with Play Streets for four years.
“Play Streets was started in New York City and it became a national initiative. HCDC’s Executive Director Heather Santoro, read an article about Play Streets and decided to bring it to Millville. Four years ago, HCDC partnered with the City of Millville to bring this national initiative to Millville,” Romano says.
Play Streets is offered in our local communities—Bridgeton, Vineland, and Millville.
Romano has had nothing but good vibrations while being involved with Play Streets.
“Opening day of the first Play Streets was deemed a success when there were 50 kids by 11 a.m. Last year, we registered 1,203 children over the six-week period. This year on opening day we registered 242,” she said.
“I became involved with Playstreets four years ago when I worked at the RRCA; we would participate with an art project during arts and culture week. I did that for two years. Last year I came to work with HCDC and helped to coordinate the event. This year I became the point person, and I am truly amazed at the dedication and commitment from all the collaborative partners. They say it takes a village, well this is Millville’s Village,” Romano said.
Play Streets has also made a positive impact in Bridgeton. Ariel Broughton and Christal Griner, workers for Community and Parental Involvement Specialists in the Bridgeton Public School District, have information to share about their journey with Play Streets:
“The purpose of Play Streets is to give the kids a safe environment to play in their community,” Broughton said. “The program has been running for three years. The program was started through an initiative with Cumberland County Positive Youth Development Coalition. There have been almost 2,000 participants in the last three years.”
Russell Swanson, executive director of Main Street Vineland, shares information about the program in Vineland, now in its second year of Play Streets.
“We’re really excited about continuing this marvelous program that has accomplished so much good for downtown communities where it has been implemented,” he said. “The response has been great, so far. We had 135 youth come out on the first week at Sixth and Landis and Philadelphia television coverage the second week. This program brings people of all ages downtown, it provides fun and fresh air for our youngsters in a safe, structured environment, and it brings community agencies together for a wonderful cause,” Swanson said.
Vineland, Millville, and Bridgeton have a lot to offer with their Play Streets involvement this summer. A sampling of activities among the three communities are a water relay, whiffle ball, Horizon Blender Bike Jump ropes, hula hoops, obstacle courses, potato sack race, inflatables, tin can toss, math games like 24 tournament, obstacle courses, face painting, Giant Scrabble, Giant Jenga, Giant Connect 4, Imagination Playground, Flag Football, and basketball.
“We enjoy being a part of Play Streets because it gives our students an activity to do, it also allows them to see familiar faces, and learn more about community resources,” Broughton said.
“To see the smiles on the kids’ faces and to see them just having fun is what motivates me and I’m sure all the partners. We go home each week hot, tired and grateful,” said Romano.