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Summer Spaces Program to Provide Free Outdoor Kids Programming and Employment

Summer Spaces Program to Provide Free Outdoor Kids Programming and Employment

Thanks to a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, and the JPB Foundation, NYC children will have access to free and safe programming outdoors this summer through Fresh Air Summer Spaces..

The Fresh Air Fund’s Summer Space program is transforming city streets into outdoor play areas to give NYC children more space to play outside and to escape some of the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. These Summer Spaces will not only give kids the chance to let loose in a supervised, outdoor environment, but will also provide valuable work experience and income to young New Yorkers struggling through these unprecedented times. Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, and the JPB Foundation are giving a $1.2 million grant to support the Fresh Air Fund’s Summer Spaces and youth employment programs in NYC.

Understanding the importance of outdoor play in times of stress, Summer Spaces has transformed closed city streets into open play areas where children can enjoy structured outdoor play while social distancing. Children ages 5-13 will have the opportunity to partake in a variety of two-hour drop-in sessions at neighborhood locations, including creative craft-related activities, active recreation programs, and giant board games. Sites will also have a “cool down” area for those who would prefer to unwind alone.

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“Children need to experience the joy and freedom of outdoor summer play, and given the lack of safe and structured activities for children who have been inside for more than 12 weeks, sunshine and being outdoors being physically active is needed now more than ever,” Fatima Shama, executive director of The Fresh Air Fund, said in a press release.

In addition to encouraging children to spend time outdoors this summer, the project will also provide jobs for young adults to gain work experience and income during the pandemic. There will be 200 positions available for young people ages 18-24 to serve as activity specialists, coaches, and counselors.

“We have a long history at The Fresh Air Fund of promoting career exploration through our summer and year-round programs, while promoting training and workforce development,” Shama said.

Health and safety, both physical and emotional, are priorities for The Fresh Air Fund. Each of the Summer Spaces will follow guidelines from the CDC and New York Forward in addition to participating in contact tracing training from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Medical support staff and a social worker will be present at each site to offer emotional support if needed.

Summer Spaces was inspired by the 2008 program “Summer Streets” under the Bloomberg administration, which opened NYC streets on weekends for recreational use. “Summer Spaces builds on [the idea of Summer Streets] by providing children across the city more places to get outside, participate in supervised activities, and most importantly, have fun—because when you’re a kid, that’s what summer break should be all about,” Patti Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies and former deputy mayor of New York City, said in a press release.

The Fresh Air Fund, a non-profit organization devoted to providing free summer experiences to children from low-income New York City communities, will manage Summer Spaces in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens from the week of July 27 -Aug.27. The four sites will be operating Monday-Thursday from 10am-4pm. Each site will serve around 90 children daily, and will provide nearly 26,000 play slots throughout the summer.

Parents and caregivers can register children online, and The Fresh Air Fund will post the Summer Space site locations and details in the coming days.


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Jamie Fischer

Author: Jamie Fischer is an editorial intern for Davler Media Group/NYMetroParents. She is a rising sophomore at Lehigh University, and enjoys playing tennis and spending time outdoors with her friends. See More

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