News Release
City Services

September 28, 2012

City and Community Partners Announce PlayStreets, Safe Neighborhood Events for Sports, Fitness and Dancing

Streets closed off for kids to promote healthy lifestyle and strategy to combat obesity

For Immediate Release

Primary Contacts:

Efrat.Stein@cityofchicago.org, 312.747.9805

MaryAnn_Schultz@bcbsil.com, 312.653.6701

Michael_Deering@bcbsil.com, 312.653.1266

PlayStreets Logo

CHICAGO IL – Today, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) along with several community partners kicked off an innovative new program designed to increase access for children to have safe places to play while promoting healthy activities with the aim of reducing childhood obesity.  PlayStreets, as the name implies, closes off city streets in communities in order to provide a safe, supervised space with organized outdoor activities for sports, fitness and dancing.

A ribbon-cutting event with City officials took place in the Pilsen neighborhood, where Cullerton Street was blocked off from 3:30-6:30pm for activities for children and families to get active.  Community members from around the neighborhood joined to make the announcement. Over fifty PlayStreets events in total are scheduled in six Chicago neighborhoods from now through mid-November. (Pilsen, Little Village Brighton Park, Woodlawn, Chicago Lawn, and South Chicago).

“It's programs like PlayStreets that provide invaluable after-school activities for our children across the city, giving them safe places where they continue to learn and be engaged outside of the classroom, right in their own neighborhoods," said Mayor Emanuel. "We've increased access to pre-k programs, are continuing to implement our City Colleges College to Careers programs, and after-school programs like these are an important piece in our goal to support our children from cradle to career."

PlayStreets is endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her “Let’s Move!” physical activity and fitness campaign. The blocked-off street events may include aerobic dance and music, tie-ins to Olympic competition with obstacle courses and other activities such as  sports, games, and personal trainers teaching fun and easy exercises.  

At the event, Lawrence Soler, President and CEO of  Partnership for a Healthier America,  applauded Chicago’s efforts to promote healthy behaviors.  “Today in America, one in five kids doesn’t have access to a playground – that’s millions of children who can’t pick up a ball, run outside or have fun in a safe environment. Chicago and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois deserve to be commended for working to ensure that every kid has a place to play and be active. Your efforts - and those of all the partners involved - are critical to our ability to end the epidemic of inactivity facing our nation's youth,” said Soler.

“This is a great advancement towards implementing our Healthy Chicago public health agenda and making our city the healthiest in the nation. Today also highlights the importance of working with community based partners to make our city a healthier place,” said Dr. Bechara Choucair, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

PlayStreets is a public-private partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), its sole sponsor.  BCBSIL is the exclusive funder for the PlayStreets program, a $317,000 grant that also includes continued financial support for the two organization’s joint Care Van community immunization program.

BCBSIL’s President, Karen Atwood explained, “This program allows us to reach so many Chicago communities and connect them to healthy behaviors in a fun and local way. It also gives kids and parents information about wellness, nutrition and fitness. We loved the idea and were in from the start.” said Atwood.

Non-Profit community organizations are responsible for implementing the program and for coordinating day-to-day logistics and operations of PlayStreets events:  Active Transportation Alliance, Gads Hill Center, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC Chicago) and World Sport Chicago in partnership with community-based organizations in a number of Chicago neighborhoods, including, Pilsen, Little Village Brighton Park, Woodlawn, Chicago Lawn, and South Chicago.

Other community partners include: Beyond the Ball, Network of Woodlawn Public Safety Alliance, Southwest Organizing Project, Claretian Associates and Resurrection Project.

For a complete list of days, times and locations, visit the Chicago Department of Public Health’s website.

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About Chicago Department of Public Health
The Chicago Department of Public Health works to make Chicago a safer and healthier place by working with community partners to promote health, prevent disease, reduce environmental hazards and ensure access to health care for all Chicagoans. Visit us at www.cityofchicago.org/health to learn more about how CDPH is transforming the health of our city. 

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL)
With 7.5 million members, BCBSIL, a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, is the largest health insurance company in Illinois. Started in 1936, BCBSIL remains member owned rather than publicly traded and is committed to promoting the health and wellness of its members and its communities through accessible, cost-effective, quality health care.

About Active Transportation Alliance
The mission of Active Transportation Alliance is to make bicycling, walking and public transit so safe, convenient and fun that we will achieve a significant shift from environmentally harmful, sedentary travel to clean, active travel. We advocate for transportation that encourages and promotes safety, physical activity, health, recreation, social interaction, equity, environmental stewardship and resource conservation. Contact:  Andres Alvear  Andres @ activetrans.org 312.427.3325 x 296. Media inquiries should be directed to Ethan Spotts at ethan@activetrans.org or 312.427.3325 x 287.

About Gads Hill Center
Gads Hill Center (GHC), a family resource center established in 1898, has a vision – that every family and every individual has the opportunity, the skills, and the education to make a better life. GHC provides educational support services that encompass  early childhood development and out-of-school youth programming for children and youth ages 0-18. GHC reaches communities throughout the southwest side of Chicago that often lack educational and childcare resources. For more information, please visit www.gadshillcenter.org. Contact: Maricela Garcia, magarcia@gadshillcenter.org, ph. 312 226 0963 ext. 225.

About Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Chicago (LISC Chicago)
LISC Chicago organizes capital and other resources to support initiatives that stimulate the comprehensive development of healthy, stable neighborhoods and foster their connection to the socioeconomic mainstream of the metropolitan region. Since 1980, LISC Chicago has infused more than $196 million into housing, human and economic development projects, leveraging a total of $4.8 billion in aggregate community investment.  The results are quantifiable: with LISC support nearly 30,000 units of affordable housing and 5 million square feet of commercial space have been developed and more than 20,000 Chicago residents have been engaged in planning, provided training, or direct service to improve their quality of life.  Contact: Keri Blackwell, kblackwell@lisc.org, 312.422.9558.

About World Sport Chicago
World Sport Chicago (WSC) is an independent, non-profit organization that strives to teach life-enhancing values and character development through sport. We believe that sport has the power to strengthen individuals, and in turn, Chicago’s communities. This mentality is translated into programs and events designed to create opportunities and support our partnerships with civic agencies, other non-profit organizations and professional Chicago sports teams.  WSC has a unique history as the living legacy of the Chicago 2016 Olympic and Paralympic bid and is designated by the United States Olympic Committee and U.S. Paralympics as one of seven national Community Olympic Development Program partners and the co-founder of the Chicago Paralympic Development Program. Chicago civic and business leader Patrick G Ryan is chairman of the board, William Scherr, an Olympic medalist in wrestling, serves as president; and Scott Myers serves as executive director. Contact: Jason Eby, media@worldsportchicago.org, 312.861.4850.