Peoria named as finalist in Play Everywhere Challenge
Peoria has been named a finalist in the Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that recognizes creative ideas to make play easy, accessible, and fun for kids and families across the country.
The challenge is hosted by KaBOOM!, a non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives children, particularly those growing up in low-income homes.
Peoria, in partnership with the Peoria City/County Health Department and the University of Illinois Extension, formed a plan to transform vacant lots into "Lots of Fun!" in the Southside. This project has been selected as a finalist out of more than 1,000 applications nationwide.
The challenge, a collaborative effort by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Target, Playworld, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts, attracted numerous ideas to spark kids’ imaginations and get their bodies moving.
Peoria’s idea came from a passion to get kids more involved in play during daily activities such as waiting at a bus stop. Graduate students from the University of Illinois School of Architecture determined the areas most in need of such a program.
“The design team of four graduate students, Elisa Laurini, Claire McDermott, Kristen Reifschneider, and Elsa Reifsteck, reconceived the neighborhood through the eyes of children by creating a ‘child-sized’ environment, converting vacant lots to a variety of enriching and safe areas for art, education, and play that are close to home and easy to access via defined, protected routes," Professor Lynne Dearborn from the U of I School of Architecture said. "Responding to community commentary and research about the environment’s role in human development, the design offers opportunities for independent exploration and play to support mental and physical well-being while building upon resources currently existing within the neighborhood."
Winners will be announced in autumn.
“We were astonished at the number and quality of the applications we received,” James Siegal, CEO of KaBOOM!, said. “To us, it shows a huge, untapped potential to reimagine cities with kids in mind, and boost their opportunity to get the play they need to thrive. And when kids thrive, cities thrive.”