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KaBOOM! names Temecula among 217 'Playful City USA' communities

With research proving play is critical to the overall well-being of children, 217 cities and towns, including Temecula, earned recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM! as a 2013 Playful City USA community for their efforts to give children the childhood they deserve by providing ample opportunities for play.

Mayor Mike Naggar stated, "Temecula is proud to be one of the cities selected to be an official Playful City USA. Our youth are inundated with electronics, TV with 3,000 channels, internet, cell phones, etc. It is imperative that we entice them to enjoy the outdoors and old-fashion play."

Today's generation of children play less than any previous generation despite the vast benefits of play. The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that play is essential to the social, emotional, cognitive and physical well-being of children.

"The City of Temecula prides itself for being a family-oriented community. We work very hard to provide the recreational services that meet the high standards set by our residents. As a result, we have a wide variety of first-rate active recreational opportunities designed for all segments of our community," stated Jeff Comerchero City Council Member and Temecula Community Services District President.

KaBOOM! selected Temecula for its outstanding dedication to play. Temecula has 39 parks and 116,500 square feet of recreational facilities. The city also has several joint-use agreements with Temecula Valley Unified School District, which provides access to 43 acres of sports fields and playgrounds for public outside of school hours. Temecula has focused on providing playful experiences for all members of the community and has funded an accessible playground for children with special needs, as well as an outdoor fitness area for seniors within their Capital Improvements Projects for this next fiscal year.

Sponsored by the Humana Foundation, Playful City USA is a national program from KaBOOM! that celebrates and promotes local policies that increase play opportunities for children and is a key platform in combating the lack of play among children.

KaBOOM!, the national non-profit organization dedicated to giving kids the childhood they deserve by bringing play to those who need it most, created Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments address the lack of play and it is through mayors, city council members, parks and recreation departments, school districts and community leaders that the program succeeds in benefitting children.

"Kids need to play actively, every day, at home, in school and in their communities, yet play is disappearing," said Darell Hammond, Founder and CEO of KaBOOM! and author of The New York Times Best Seller KaBOOM!: A Movement to Save Play. "Children spend nearly eight hours a day in front of a screen; almost half of all poor students are deprived of recess; and to make matters worse, only one in five children live within walking distance of a park. Playful City USA communities like Temecula are creating innovative programs and initiatives and deserve recognition because of their efforts to give kids the childhood they deserve and best prepare them for their future."

Hailing from 43 states, the 217 Playful City USA honorees range in size from seven-time honorees such as San Francisco and Spartanburg, S.C., to first-time recipient Ellsworth, Kan. (population: 3,100). These Playful City USA communities are making a commitment to play and physical activity by developing unique local action plans to increase the quantity and quality of play in their community.

In the seventh year of the annual program, 16 Playful City USA communities received recognition for the seventh consecutive year, while 23 earned honors for the sixth time, 25 for the fifth time, 29 for the fourth time, 41 for the third time, and 46 for the second time. KaBOOM! recognized 37 communities with their first Playful City USA designation.

For the sixth consecutive year, Florida paced the nation with 32 Playful City USA communities. California earned second-place with 26 communities, while Texas finished third with 15 Playful City USA communities. Each of the 2013 Playful City USA communities demonstrated creative commitments to addressing the lack of play among children. Playful City USA celebrates and highlights these unique initiatives developed by communities across the country. A primary goal of Playful City USA is to encourage cities and towns to share ideas, concepts and programs in an effort to increase play opportunities for children. City initiatives include:

* Chicago (Ill.) – The city has committed to rebuilding 300 playgrounds during the next five years beginning in 2013 with 50 rebuilt playgrounds, five new parks, two new field houses and major rehabilitation of recreational buildings in 15 different communities. Once the enhancement projects are completed, every child in Chicago will live within a 10-minute walk of a new park or playground.

* Milwaukee (Wis.) – The city recently passed legislation requiring any organization using its facility as an elementary school to have an outdoor play space for children. The legislation ensures both Milwaukee Public Schools and local charter schools are providing adequate and safe outdoor play spaces for all elementary students.

* Providence (R.I.) – The city originally created the "Playful Providence" program to showcase the importance of play for children. An overwhelming success, in 2013 the city will expand the programming to the entire summer by adding training opportunities and workshops on play and hosting a summer concert series where children are encouraged to play.

* Redwood City (Calif.) – The city has several initiatives through the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department that are intended to increase play opportunities for children. After physical education cuts in local schools, the city applied and received a grant to provide physical education for 5,000 K-5th grade children during the school day.

* Tamarac (Fla.) – The city's parks and recreation department partnered with a local elementary school to create the CATCH Kids Club. The program increases access for play and physical recreation for children and resulted in the school receiving additional funding support for physical education.

The 217 Playful City USA communities are now eligible for $15,000, $20,000 and $30,000 grants via Let's Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple Group to get kids and families active nationwide.

Grant recipients will be announced in the fall. For more information on the KaBOOM! Playful City USA program, including Let's Play grants and applications for 2014, visit www.playfulcityusa.org.

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