HAPPINESS ON A TRUCK
MOBILE PLAYGROUNDS BRING JOY TO HUNDREDS OF AMERICAN CHILDREN FROM LOW INCOME FAMILIES
In a state with the fourth-highest rate of youth obesity in the nation, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, parks and recreation agency wanted to lure kids away from their screens and into the parks to get moving.
But the low-income youths who needed exercise the most weren’t showing up at the parks, because, officials learned, they didn’t have transportation, and their parents were too busy working to take them. So they decided to take the parks to the kids.
With money donated in 2012 by corporate sponsors and a portion of their parish budget, the local parks and recreation agency, known as the Baton Rouge East Commission, or BREC, bought a box delivery truck, painted it with bright colours and filled it with scooters, hula hoops, balls, slack lines, trampolines, sidewalk chalk and jump ropes.
“The idea came to us one day while we were watching a bunch of kids turn flips on an old mattress someone had discarded near the office,” said Diane Drake, who directs BREC’S playground on wheels. “We realised it wouldn’t take much to get kids moving if we put it right in front of them.”
Naming the mobile playground BREC on the Geaux, the parks and recreation agency in 2013 started what would become a daily programme by holding community events at housing complexes, churches, parks and schools in low-income neighbourhoods.
If peals of laughter and swarms of activity are any indicator, BREC on the Geaux was an immediate success, Drake said. “Once word spread, children would come running out of their apartments as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. It was all we could do to unload the equipment before they grabbed it and ran off.”
A year after it began, BREC officials drove the mobile playground to Charlotte, North Carolina, to share their story with others at a 2014
Children at the Dufrocq School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, compete in a sack race using equipment provided by the local parks and recreation commission.