Thanks to grant funding from Healthy Schools Healthy Communities (HSHC), new playground equipment was recently installed at Houston’s Emmett Kelly Park and West Side Park.
Emmett Kelly Park received a four-seat “We-saw” unit and a pair of bucket swings, while West Side Park got a multi-purpose “Kids Choice Fitness” apparatus.
HSHC paid 100-percent of the cost of the Kids Choice unit and bucket swings, and 2/3 of the price of the Wee-saw, and all of the gear was installed by City of Houston workers.
HSHC also paid for half of the cost of synthetic wood chips that cover the ground around the equipment, while the city paid the other half.
“We hadn’t done anything at Emmett Kelly for quite while,” said healthy communities coordinator Earlene Stoops, “so I wanted to find a way to get more people to come back down there again and entice families to get off their electronics and other stuff.”
The We-saw was installed on Sept. 27 and is designed so many different combinations of people can get on board, like two parents and two kids, two sets of siblings or just a group of friends. There is also a middle space where two more people can fit.
“That’s what it’s made to do,” Stoops said. “I really have a passion to get families connecting and face-to-face again having fun. One of the main reasons for getting the We-saw is the interaction people have with each other.”
The bucket swings and Kids Choice Fitness unit were ready for use on Oct. 10. Stoops said the synthetic wood material is more practical than actual bark.
“It drains better, it’s safer because it’s more fine and it’s softer, and it has more spring to it,” she said.
The synthetic material complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Stoops said. The bucket swings are also ADA approved, and another set was installed last year at Rutherford Park on the west side of Houston Memorial Airport.
A HEALTHY GOAL
Healthy Schools Healthy Communities is an initiative of the Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) primarily designed to address childhood obesity. It is overseen locally by the Texas County Health Department and Stoops.
The MFH was formed in February 2000 as a result of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s changeover from a nonprofit to for-profit company, because federal law requires that proceeds from the sale of tax-exempt entities be directed toward charitable purposes.
Since Houston began benefiting from HSHC funding in 2014, numerous pieces of equipment related to healthy living have been added around town and many programs and classes have been conducted using grant funding from the initiative. Stoops said HSHC targets kids aged K-through-eighth-grade, but her goal is a bit broader.
“I also want to include family – bringing people back together,” she said.
Stoops can be reached by phone at 417-967-4131.