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Play & Learn: Promoting Healthy Active Lifestyles for Underserved Kids

In July 2013, John Rex Endowment awarded four organizations with healthy weight grants. Each project focused on policy and environment changes, long-lasting preventive benefits, and wide public impact. Among them was The Salvation Army’s Community Center which received $84,318 to update outdated playground equipment with new, safe playground equipment that encourages physical activity and healthy, active behaviors for children. The Playground Dedication took place at 1:30pm on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at The Salvation Army Community Center, located at 902 Wake Forest Rd. Attendants included John Rex Foundation Representative – McAllister Myhra, Salvation Army Advisory Board members, Community Center Advisory Committee, staff, parents, volunteers, and of course, children from the After School Program.

 The Community Center is home to the After School Program, Athletic Program and Summer Camps. There are approximately 145 students enrolled in the After School program from eighteen surrounding Wake County schools. Since the early 70’s, the Community Center has been a place where kids could get help with homework, learn about faith, receive guidance, and most importantly, just be a kid. The After School Program has grown significantly in the past several years, seeing more kids than ever, and has adapted its programs to stay current and keep children engaged. Fitness has been a primary focus over the past two years. Sarah Ruiz, Program Director for the After School program, said, “We want the kids to be happy and healthy. So we have implemented programs like Boot Camp, Dance and Girls on the Run to encourage a healthy lifestyle.”  Ruiz continues, “It’s amazing to see a transformation in a child after participating in some of these activities. They start out shy, a little doubtful of themselves and their capabilities, and before you know it, they’re the ones jumping up and leading others. I’m so proud to be apart of that.” 

*Featured below is the new playground with Program Director, Sarah Ruiz.


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