Local children climbed walls and crawled under trucks with help from noncommissioned officers at Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support and other military personnel during an active play event Aug. 10 in Northeast Philadelphia.
Three DLA Troop Support NCOs joined nearly 40 other service members from the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Navy Reserve and active duty military to support the Philly Play Summer Challenge. More than 2,000 local children from summer camps across the city participated in the event.
Philly Play is a nonprofit organization created in 2013 to get Philadelphia kids engaged in active play, according to the website. City Councilman Bobby Henon, who started Philly Play, and Under Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy requested the military support.
The children learned a lot from military personnel at the event, Henon’s Director of Communications Jolene Nieves Byzon said.
“[The] military is actually a great partner in an event like this,” Byzon said, “what the military [personnel] can bring to our campers in terms of teamwork and understanding the importance of a healthy lifestyle [and] how that translates into a real-world readiness.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Jones, from the Clothing and Textiles supply chain, said the military presence serves as a reminder that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are a part of every community.
“The military’s members started off like the youth present at the Philly Play Summer Challenge,” Jones said. “Someone showed up for us and sparked that sense of pride and wonder for us. Someone showed their impressive physical build, and cool and calm presence in the community, the city, state and nation.”
Army Master Sgt. Cynthia Gyening, also from C&T, said the event “was the best day ever.”
“On a scale of one to 10, it was way past a 10,” Gyening said. “I think I had more fun than the kids.”
Jones said he will never forget the attitudes and smiles of all of the children at the Summer Challenge.
Kylie, 11, from Port Richmond Samuel Summer Camp, said her favorite part was being sprayed with water by firemen while completing one of the obstacles.
Philly Play encourages children to get at least 60 minutes of active play every day, to live a healthier lifestyle, Byzon said.
Of the 10 largest cities in America, Philadelphia has the highest percentage of obese children, and second highest percentage of children who are overweight, according to the Philly Play website.
Throughout the year, Philly Play serves approximately 3,000 children in recreation centers and schools across the city, Byzon said. Summer Challenge is Philly Play’s third and largest free event.
Philly Play children have had 120,000 hours of active play during the last three summers, Byzon said.