Summer vacation season is upon us. Vacations are not just fun, but can also be important for our health. We can return from time away with a renewed sense of vigor, fresh perspectives, and increased mental acuity. A break from the daily grind can relieve stress and increase productivity in all of us.
But in our community, too many people, particularly at-risk children and their families, don’t have the opportunity to take vacations. And to make matters worse, many don’t even have ready access to safe and engaging neighborhood parks or playgrounds, the next best thing. This park and playground “desert” has serious consequences for the health, learning, and overall well-being of many of Alexandria’s children.
Numerous studies show that physical exertion, play, and general running around can greatly improve a child’s mood, mental focus and attention span. Movement activates the brain, “priming the pump” and setting kids up for optimal learning and success in school. Of course, movement is good for kids’ physical health and staving off effects of bad eating habits and inactivity, particularly obesity. Did you know that Alexandria follows the shocking national trend where 44.5 percent of two-to-five year-olds are classified as overweight or obese?
Fortunately, many members of our Alexandria community are committed to improving the lives of at-risk kids and their families. RunningBrooke, an organization founded in 2009, has been working to support the development of playgrounds and parks, as well as movement and early education programs for Alexandria children. We are lucky to have the essential support of numerous partners, including city government, numerous other organizations, and residents committed to similar initiatives.
The link between active living and learning are clear.
There are some promising signs of progress. Last month, RunningBrooke, a local nonprofit that raises funds to support healthier and more active families, announced its investment of $80,000 to redevelop Arlandria’s Hume Springs Park. This park, in a transitional neighborhood with the highest percentage of young children in Alexandria, will soon feature recreational equipment and green space specifically designed for kids under five years of age. We encourage Alexandria residents to join RunningBrooke on September 19 to help build the Hume Springs Park.
This exciting development represents a promising step in the right direction to ensure that all of Alexandria’s kids have a safe place to learn and be more active. We hope it will be among many on behalf of healthy families and a stronger community.
Sydnor Curran is the founder and CEO of RunningBrooke, a nonprofit organization that goes the distance for at-risk children in Alexandria. RunningBrooke funds innovative programs that get at-risk children moving to maximize school learning. To raise the level awareness and public engagement, founder Brooke Sydnor Curran has run a marathon a month since 2009 — a total of 86 so far — including one marathon on each continent, in each of the 50 states, and the five world Marathon Majors. To learn more, visit www.runningbrooke.org.