Henrico receives 2017 Playful City USA honor

County joins neighboring localities in regional recognition

Henrico County has been recognized as a 2017 Playful City USA community by KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization that encourages bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all children.

The 2017 Playful City USA program recognizes 258 communities across the country for transforming ordinary places into playful spaces and using play as a solution to challenges facing their residents. Nationwide, these communities feature more than 14,000 safe and engaging play spaces that serve more than 4 million kids.

“Henrico is committed to the safety and well-being of our community,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said. “Thanks to the leadership and vision of the Board of Supervisors, Henrico has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to improving the state of play for children of all ages and abilities. As a visit to any of our many wonderful parks, playgrounds or athletic fields will quickly attest, Henrico places a priority on serving the needs of its youth with the very highest quality in recreation programs and facilities.”

Henrico’s designation is based on several key initiatives, including its Summer Blast program, which provides opportunities for recreation and enrichment to thousands of youth during summer break; new spray parks; and the Challenger Field and Buddy Ball League, which give special-needs athletes a chance to play an organized sport. The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks supports its Challenger Day program in partnership with Henrico County Public Schools, I Have a Dream Foundation, Capital One and a local youth sports organization.

Henrico’s designation joins those of the city of Richmond, town of Ashland and counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, New Kent and Powhatan. Collectively, the localities represent the first region fully recognized through the Playful City USA program.

The Capital Region Collaborative and Sports Backers worked with Henrico and neighboring localities to earn recognition after helping Richmond to secure the honor in 2016.

“After seeing the benefits from the city’s designation last year, it was clear we needed to spread the effort to include the entire region,” said Ashley Hall, manager of the Capital Region Collaborative. “We’re proud of the regional commitment to playability, a subject that connects across our region’s eight priority areas – from education and quality place, to the James River and healthy community.”

In addition to prestige and an improved standing to compete for grants and other funding, benefits to a Playful City USA designation include access to KaBOOM! resources and two road signs to promote the recognition.

Active play provides benefits beyond entertainment, said Jeff McIntyre, director of the Sports Backers’ Active RVA initiative.

“Active play is crucial to the well-being of kids, families and their communities,” he said. “In a playable environment, children’s creative adventures on the playground create a foundation for classroom learning. For adults and families, play creates connections, expands social networks and helps to build stronger and safer neighborhoods. It shows our commitment to providing all members of the community with enhanced opportunities to be more active.”

To review a full list of Playful City USA communities and to learn more about making play an easy choice for kids, go to playfulcityusa.org. You also can join the conversation with leaders across the country using #PLAYceforkids on Twitter and Facebook.