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Millions of dollars heading to WNY to build innovative play areas

Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation has launched the Built to Play initiative to provide more opportunities for kid-driven play across Western New York and Southeast Michigan.

Wilson Foundation spokesperson Jim Boyle says a need for more safe, outdoor play options for youth in both rural and low-income neighborhoods was a key finding in the State of Play reports released in June 2017.

"What those studies really told us was that kids are not active to the levels that we really need them to be for healthy communities," said Boyle. "The national average that the CDC recommends kids being out is an hour a day. The national average for that is 27 percent and in Rochester that average is 13 percent."

The Wilson Foundation has partnered with the Tony Hawk Foundation, which focuses on promoting public skate parks in low-income areas, as well as KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to giving kids safe places to play.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation will invest up to $5 million in both New York and Michigan.

Boyle says over the next several months, KaBOOM! and the Tony Hawk Foundation will begin to immerse themselves in both areas to engage potential applicants and help guide them through the process and steps to create these spaces.

Their three goals are to build more skate parks, build playgrounds that are more interesting and create more unexpected play space.

"It could be a play zone at a laundromat. It could be a swing at a bus stop. So where kids sometimes congregate with their parents," said Boyle, "but it’s a unique way to get them up and running and active."

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is named after the founder of the Buffalo Bills. Wilson was 95 when he died at his Grosse Pointe Shores, MI home in 2014.

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