Recreation Management - Ideas and Solutions for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

November 2019


Meet Me at the Park Grant Program Reaches More than a Million Kids

By Chandler Garland

In 2017, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and The Walt Disney Company launched their “Meet Me at The Park Play Spaces” grant program with the ambitious goal of bringing new play and physical activity projects to more than a million children and families nationwide.

Now, in less than three years, the campaign has more than achieved this goal by reaching more than 1 million children and families in 39 states with $2.3 million in grants to facilitate new projects for 75 parks nationwide.

“Parks are absolutely essential to the health and well-being of communities everywhere, and we are grateful for the opportunity to increase access to spaces for play and physical activity, in areas where they are needed the most,” said Kristine Stratton, NRPA president and CEO. “These investments will benefit children and families for generations to come.”

Projects created by the Meet Me at the Park Play Spaces grant program are varied and imaginative, bringing revitalized park spaces to communities most in need. Improvements funded by the grants so far have ranged from new playground equipment for the rural Alaska Peninsula community of King Cove to new amenities for a park in Tampa, Fla., which received new accessibility features such as advanced sensory equipment for those with autism or related disabilities.

“Play is central to a child’s growth and development,” said Elissa Margolis, senior vice president Enterprise Social Responsibility, the Walt Disney Company. “Disney is proud to join with the National Recreation and Park Association through the Meet Me at the Park program, in providing access to the innovative and inclusive play spaces that enable and encourage children to play every day—at home, in school, and in their neighborhoods and communities. By working together with NRPA, our team at Disney hopes to make play places more accessible and inspire kids and families to stay active and have fun.”

Post-project evaluations conducted at many of the parks that received grants have shown significant improvement in daily park use and park-based physical activity. First-time park visitors increased by 16 percent, while 80 percent of surveyed park visitors believed the projects had a positive impact on nearby communities. Gains in volunteering rates for park programs and events were also attributed to the new projects.

“This achievement is definitely worth celebrating and also recognizing the inspiring contribution of The Walt Disney Company to the success of this program,” said Rachel Banner, director of park access for NRPA. “The Disney team brought vision, a commitment to healthy living and the resources to make this important project a reality.”


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