Tupelo honored for its work on play

TUPELO – Tupelo is among 118 cities across the nation to earn recognition this year as a Playful City USA.
The designation, which went to Tupelo for the first time this year, honors communities that “prioritize play and ensure that children are healthy by providing the time and space for play,” according to a press release Wednesday by KaBOOM!
KaBOOM! is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide children a place to play within walking distance of their homes or schools.
Tupelo won in part due to the cooperation between the Department of Parks and Recreation and Tupelo Public School District to develop more daily play opportunities for children.
The two entities partnered on an aquatics program that, starting this year, will give all the public school system’s second-graders a chance to learn water safety and swimming. They also are working on ways to open public school playgrounds to the entire community, said Tupelo Parks and Recreation Director Don Lewis.
Applying for the designation “caused us to do an overall review of our current play opportunities, create an inventory of what’s available and accessible to the public,” Lewis said. “It gives us a two-year timeline to implement some of our objectives.”
Besides the national recognition, the designation also will make grant opportunities available for Tupelo.
Hernando and Horn Lake are the only other Mississippi communities to have earned the honor this year; it was Horn Lake’s first time to win and Hernando’s third.
“An extreme misconception exists in our country that play among children is a luxury when, in fact, it’s an absolute necessity,” said Darell Hammond, CEO and co-founder of KaBOOM!
“For decades, this notion dominated our actions and we continue to see the damaging results: a monumental lack of play spaces for children and sky-rocketing childhood obesity rates,” Hammond said.
“Tupelo refused to adhere to the status quo and realized all children deserve a municipal commitment to the cause of play.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal