Wow, what a turnout! Over 60 children from around Merced county came to play with us on Friday night!
We approached Oscar from J&R Tacos and he was instantly in on the idea. We also spoke to Thad from Little Oven Pizza, and he recommended trying to use the empty store space on Main St. between J&R Tacos and Little Oven Pizza for the event. So together with My FUNdraiser partner Gil Cardon, we approached Dan Gallagher from Gonella Real Estate to ask about the space, and after getting final approval from the owner the space was ours for the night! The feeling was incredible. Strong community business partners pulling together to create a positive message to the Merced community - We care about you and our children!
And the giving didn't end there. A few of us came together and cleaned the space that had been laying empty for a year - thanks Kevin and Henry. A special contributor named Susan donated 475 boxes the day prior to our event, and Minuteman Press Merced sponsored part of our marketing materials for the evening. Coffee Bandits jumped on board and the ball was rolling. Emily from Merced Youth Connect became Play Adventures fiscal sponsor overnight and Noelle (well, you all know Noelle) has been helping me personally and professionally to push Play Adventures in the community.
I started this FUNdraiser with high energies, wrapped with influential supporting partners and it felt great.
The day of the FUNdraiser approached and my oldest son of 9, even after schlepping boxes into the space on a hot summer afternoon, started to play right away!
He constructed a jail out of old playground equipment, pool noodles and duct tape. I can never stop a child from playing even when there is still a trailer load of loose parts to unload… : )
When the hullabaloo of the main event began, I was happy to see both new and familiar faces. The entrance was a gallery of information to raise awareness about Adventure Playgrounds, Playwork, and the benefits of self-directed play. It was colorful and pretty. The two rooms near the front entrance were small, and were set up for specific types of play. We had the “orange paper room,” where the walls were covered in paper and kids made a mural using colored tape, markers and chalk. The room next door had three boxes of different sizes, with some cloth and clips that instantaneously transformed them into forts. Some children stayed in these rooms for some time before venturing to the giant 2,000 sq. ft. room, loaded with an abundance of loose parts, high ceilings that echoed the chatter and laughter of the children, and even seating areas along the walls for parents to watch and enjoy the activities. The walls were covered with signs such as:
The children began to enter and some started playing right off the bat. The adults naturally took to their places on the sideline as the kids began to explore the environment on their own. Some children wandered around discovering the materials, others built things together, and some new friendships were forged. My idea was to demonstrate what types of interactions were conducive to letting the child lead while allowing their play to manifest, however that may be. One child enjoyed rolling around atop of a piece of equipment, without noticing that behind him was a concrete floor and other hard pieces. I immediately noticed this and rearranged the environment so that if he did fall back, there would be a soft landing. He did this multiple times enjoying the possible risks involved, yet feeling safe that no harm would be done - the true adventurous type!
Another child used a box as though it was a car, and wandered around on a spool pretending he was a merchant of some kind or another, offering tips and sometimes postcards.
There was also a fun ice cream shop that was created by some children, and I was lucky enough to get the popular “chocolate chocolate chocolate chocolate chip” flavor - made of cardboard and cloth. It was delicious!
Kids also went on to make hiding spaces using boxes and cloth, adding pieces of carpet to the floors, making phones out of cardboard, and even built a shower using a pool noodle and an old shower head.
One child made an entire castle and asked me to draw a king and queen. Little did they know that the picture I drew would end up so bad, that they laughed and finally exclaimed "let me draw it!" Well, of course their drawing came out much better!
In the orange art studio room, one girl who is just a mere five years old drew an incredible unicorn on the orange paper.
Another child built an entire fort using at least ten boxes in the corner of the room, that just kept continuously expanding throughout the event. Kids were intrigued and asked to join. There were pool noodle sword fights, lots of laughing, running around, and a whole lot of fun was had the entire time.
I am lucky to have moved to such a welcoming community of business partners, families and ingenious children. I am looking forward to seeing more of your children at play with PLAY ADVENTURES! If you didn't get a chance to donate you can here: http://bit.ly/31IAvbr