Every summer, we present Project Play, which claims underutilized space in Little Village by providing recreational activities for kids and their parents. Every Tuesday and Thursday , hundreds of people gather at 31st and Lawndale to play basketball, badminton, kickball, and wiffleball, and much more. Ropes are jumped, hula hoops revolved and faces painted. Individuals and families forge a stronger community through shared activity.
Project Play wa also honored by Beyond sport with the Most Courageous Use of Sport Award at the Beyond Sport Summit last fall among over 400 entries from 120 countries around the world! Beyond Sport is a London-based organization that recognizes non-profits using sport for social good, and Beyond the Ball is honored to have been the first-ever U.S. based recipient of one of their awards.
The community impact of Project Play has been quite noticeable locally as well. A space once dominated by gangs is now controlled by families--the space has been reclaimed for positive use. Though surrounding areas are still tagged by gangs, the graffiti no longer exists in the portions used by Project Play. There is a tangible difference between space that once was gang-controlled and now belongs to the community.
The idea for Project Play came from our Bitty Ball picnics, the first of which drew over 1,000 residents who enjoyed a day of food and fun. The open field at 31st and Lawndale provides the perfect place for Project Play. It has long been a hot area for gang conflicts, but Project Play will be a part of reclaiming the space for healthy, family use.
Special thanks to the support we received from the Dave Bolland Foundation and the Finish Line Youth Foundation, who helped make this year's Project Play a huge success!
Check out the video below to see what Project Play looks like and you can see more images on our facebook page.