It’s a cliché, yes, but can we all agree that time really does fly when you’re having fun? When ten minutes feels like sixty years, in kid-time, it’s enough to make any kid want to just stay home from school or soccer practice. Considering that a daily wait for a bus could stretch anywhere from ten minutes to an hour,. lots of kids in Denver’s North Side neighborhoods could use a little fun to pass the time.
Enter PLAY Denver, an organization founded by a group of North High School students who know firsthand that play is one of the best stress-relievers available to kids, and especially to those living in poverty. They’re long out of high school, but they’re still on a mission to spread joy through play and activity. “Never underestimate the power of joy in changing a life,” goes their motto.
“Never underestimate the power of joy in changing a life,” goes their motto.
So while many Americans seem resigned to the idea that public transportation has to be joyless – especially for those living in poverty – they’re singing quite a different tune over at PLAY Denver. Undaunted by the fact that most bus stops in their neighborhood are rundown and surrounded by drab concrete, they’re out to make the wait for the bus just a little better – by installing mini playgrounds. They’re hoping to make it to 15 bus stops by summer 2015, leaving a path of hopscotch grids, fun message boards, verdant planters, Tic-tac-toe and other stationary games in their friendly wake.
“At Play Denver, one of our big goals is to use underutilized spaces for play for children, and one of the things we’ve been observing in our neighborhood is that a lot of kids spend an extreme amount of time waiting at bus stops, and they’re so ugly and dreary,” says co-founder Ariel Smith. “And so we thought this is a great opportunity to promote play and wellness at bus stops. We figured that we could use it as an opportunity to inject some fun and joy into children’s lives while they’re sitting there waiting.”
In addition to creating hopscotch grids and installing stationary games, the team plans to repaint bus shelters in bright, cheerful colors (remaining intentional, as always, about the effects that some colors can have in particular neighborhoods, because of potential gang affiliation), and renovate benches where possible.
Even more importantly, though, the team is calling on local kids themselves to serve as consultants on the projects. At Play Denver, that’s protocol; when the nonprofit recently created a bike path in the area, they did the same. A boy named Jared helped design that path, and even cut the ribbon when it was unveiled. “Whenever we hold events, kids of all ages come and really give their input,” says Smith, “and that’s really exciting.”
The ioby Trick Out My Trip opportunity is funded by Transit Center.