By Tina Dirmann
staff writer for BCBSLA Foundation
These are the times when we at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana can get all warm and fuzzy about our jobs… Watching nearly 200 volunteers from the Algiers community come together to make-over a run-down old playground, in hopes of sparking new activity at a once-dilapidated field, you realize what a community can truly accomplish when they come together.
And so, in the span of a few hours, a newly sodded baseball field suddenly came into view. And new swings, a new jungle gym… Stacks of wood were hammered and drilled until they became new benches. Fresh coats of paint stained the entry-way. Trees were planted…
Those of us watching it unfold stood in amazement. McDonough Park never looked so good.
“Every kid deserves a safe place to live and play,” said Karen DeSalvo, New Orleans Health Commissioner. “This is our way of encouraging families in this neighborhood to come out and use their park. We want them to jump rope, run, play hop-scotch, play jacks… Just come play!”
The event was part of the NOLA FOR LIFE initiative, started by Mayor Mitch Landrieu (who also attended the event), with the goal of slashing murder and violent crime rates through blight eradication and various aesthetic improvements at high-risk neighborhoods. To date, the program has pushed through a lot of changes in the surrounding McDonough neighborhood, including repairs to 436 steer lamps, filling 294 potholes, replacing 21 catch basins, fixing 36 street signs, and removing 10 abandoned cars and 70 blighted properties.
And we’re proud to be a partner in this amazing effort, through the Play Streets program (focused on providing safe places for kids to play in an effort to fight childhood obesity and supported through a $50,000 grant under Partnership for a Healthier America and BCBSLA). It’s yet another way BCBSLA is targeting the obesity problem in Louisiana, following in the footsteps of the new $10.2 million grant program established by the Blue Cross and Blue Sheild of Louisiana Founation last year (Challenge for a Healthier Lousisiana, supporting wellness programs across the state).
Christy Reeves, director of community relations for BCBSLA and the executive director for the company’s charity foundation (BCBSLAF), was on hand for the April 20th event, passing out jump ropes and healthy snacks.
“Blue Cross got involved with Play Streets because we know play is an essential part of a child’s development,” Reeves said. “While hula hooping, running relay races and dancing might not seem like exercise, all that movement will help New Orleans’ kids stay fit… Plus, the program emphasizes providing safe places to play, which is a key element to fighting childhood obesity and keeping a community as a whole healthy.”
Look out for even more Play Streets events in the coming weeks! Wanna be a part of it? Come on out and get moving! Join us April 27 at A.L. Davis Park at Washington and LaSalle streets; June 15 at Joe Brown Park, 5601 Reed Blvd. Details for a fourth event have not been announced yet but will be held in the fall and plans so far call for a community bike ride! See you there!