Playstreets creating safe outdoors for kids

May 4, 2013 (CHICAGO)

There is no more certain sign that summer is around the corner than a good block party.

"I think it's really fun," said 13-year-old Yunuen Perez. "We get to have a good time."

"We were playing like a whole bunch of games," said 7-year-old Kate Rojas. "I like the hula hoop and the jump rope."

But this isn't just a random occasion to bring out a bounce house. This is a party with a purpose, an initiative called Playstreets.

"We are conducting activities in north Lawndale, Pilsen and Brighton Park and the intention is to address the unsafe conditions of some of those streets by bringing families to a place that can be closed and can be claimed for at least half a day," said Maricela Garcia, CEO, Gads Hill Center.

"It gives kids just a healthy place to to be kids, to play outside," said Donna Gerber, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.

The social service agency Gads Hill Center is teaming up with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and the Chicago Department of Public Health with a mission to encourage children in low-income areas to play outside and get exercise. They are also showing the community the importance of creating safe spaces for kids.

"We looked at obesity rates. We looked at rates of other chronic conditions. We looked at violence issues. So it was really a combination of different factors that helped us decide on the neighborhoods where we want to be," said Dr. Bechara Choucair, Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner.

This block party is in North Lawndale. Neighbors say they would like to see more blocks shut down to traffic and open to families to help keep them healthy and safe.

"I think it's a real nice event for the neighborhood," said Damone Bailey. "There needs to be more events like this cause the kids need something to do after school."

There a several more Playstreets activities planned throughout the spring and summer.

For dates, location and more information:

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