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2014-07-31 at 16:08

100 years of play

By Leith Dunick,
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THUNDER BAY -- Danielle Buckler loves to play.

The 11-year-old says it’s a lot better than lazing around doing nothing

On Thursday she helped the City of Thunder Bay celebrate 100 years of playgrounds, joining dozens of other children at Fort William Stadium, a fun-filled event full of games and activities designed to let kids be kids.

“I like it because you stay active instead of sitting around at home, playing on your iPods and stuff. It keeps you active and keeps you going,” said Danielle, whose favourite outdoor activity this summer is dodge ball.

Meghan Mazzuca, who takes part in the city’s free playground programs, said play is all a part of growing up.

“You get to learn new experiences and games and if you don’t know the games you get to learn it,” the 10-year-old  said. “And you get to run around be active and be healthy. You make a lot of new friends and the leaders are all nice.”

For 10-year-old Keagan Jones couldn’t agree more.

“I like playing at playgrounds because it keeps you active and you get to play fun games and meet new people,” the youngster said.

A century ago, when Thunder Bay was split in two, the cities of Fort William and Port Arthur began playground programs in earnest, with five sites.

Today there are 14, with activities to suit most children, regardless of interests.

Steve Thome, the city’s program supervisor for children and youth, said the nature of play hasn’t changed over the past 100 years.

Kids love to have fun, he said, and it all comes down to the foundation of play.

It’s not easy competing with technology, but it can be done, he said of the drop-in program.
“It’s a great gap for the kids of this city to be able to participate in,” he said.

Mayor Keith Hobbs, who said he liked playing soccer and baseball when he was young, earlier this year declared 2014 the Year of Play in Thunder Bay.

He said anything that helps children grow as people is worth supporting in his mind.

“They help keep our children safe and out of trouble and it’s a good initiative,” Hobbs said.

The playground programs are open to children aged five to 12.

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