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First Baptist Church to launch new program to inspire children to play
New initiative aims to get kids interested in sports, not video games at earlier age
Banks Fowler gives his best growl as 2- and 3-year-olds from First Baptist Church day school bear crawl in the Family Life Center gymnasium off Green Street in Gainesville. The church is trying to implement a new program called Kids at Play with the aim of getting more children to play sports and socialize with their peers instead of focusing on cell phones, TV and video games.

Bargain Bazaar

What: A community-wide fundraising sale for the Kids at Play initiative

When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, April 28, preview sale; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 29 and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday April 30

Where: First Baptist Church Family Life Center, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville

How much: $5 for preview sale; free Saturday and Sunday; bring a grocery bag Sunday and fill it with items for $1

More info: or 770-534-7354

Ginny Stump remembers spending hours and hours of her childhood playing sports with her siblings and friends.

“I grew up playing sports and I loved them,” she said.

Now, as co-director at First Baptist Church’s Family Life Center, Stump hopes to share her love of sports with younger generations.

She and preschool minister Jenny Burns are planning to launch a new initiative at the Family Life Center called Kids at Play.

“Kids are spending more time inside just sitting there, whether it be video games, watching TV or playing on tablets,” Stump said.

Adults aren’t any better. They are setting the example by spending too much time in front of a screen, too, Stump said.

“We want to change that,” she said.

Stump and Burns plan to accomplish that with Kids at Play. The initiative will provide a safe place for children to explore and learn by playing sports through leagues as well as active play. Kids at Play will cater to children ages 2 to 6, which may expand to children up to age 10.

One league Stump wants to start is a futsal league. Similar to indoor soccer, futsal is played with a smaller ball in a smaller area.

“A lot of people in Brazil play that when they’re really young,” she said. “It develops skills and makes them have to think critically. You’re in tight spaces and you have to get out of them.”

Stump, who played soccer as a child and was coached by her dad, said team sports was an important part of her life.

“Some kids can’t afford to do it, so they miss out,” she said, noting Kids at Play will offer scholarships to area children.

The league cost will be low, Stump said. Any fees collected will pay for jerseys or T-shirts.

“We’re not doing it to make money,” Stump said. “We’re doing it to introduce the kids to the games.”

League play will teach children social skills. The camaraderie that’s formed with being on a team or even just coming to camp and getting to know people is huge, Stump said.

“Sports have been good (for me),” Stump said. “Not only the friendships you make, without you realizing it, it helps you develop discipline.”

To fund the new program, First Baptist will hold a Bargain Bazaar on April 28-30.

“We hope to raise enough funds to get (Kids at Play) going,” Stump said. “Then we can start having the leagues as early as the coming school year and start working on our space downstairs.”

For part of the space for Kids at Play, organizers hope to repurpose the 3,000-square-foot basement of the Family Life Center into an active-play center. They plan to build a miniature city with roads for children to ride toy cars and equipment to climb on. Burns said the hope is to design different areas for different ages.

Another part includes making an indoor sports arena in the current Kiddie City area.

“It would be an enclosed area with soccer goals at either end,” Stump said. “There would also be basketball hoops at each end that could be used when the soccer goals are removed.”

Another of the initiative’s goals is to get families active together. Stump said she hopes to plan family hiking trips or basketball games, once a month.

Parents will receive the benefits of connecting with their children and other adults.

“It will ... give parents a chance to socialize with each other and form connections with people who are at a similar phase in life,” Burns said.

The Kids at Play initiative will kick off with a free Couch Potato to 5K program July 24.

“The intentions are to get kids into exercising at a young age so they develop healthy, lifelong habits and allow parents to participate in the Couch to 5K program without feeling any guilt,” Stump said.

Children will participate alongside their parents in fitness games.

The nine-week program will culminate with First Baptist’s Be Grateful 5K + 1 Mile Walk/Run on Sept. 23 at Midtown Greenway. A family carnival will follow.

Money raised at the race and carnival will help renovate space for the Kids at Play programs and provide scholarship to children for leagues and camps.

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