Program connects kids with recreation, education, lunch

UPlay, which started Monday, is hosted at four parks in Walla Walla.

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Brooklyn Rayford downs a carton of milk during the first day of the City of Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Department's free lunch program at city parks Monday at noon. Kids age 1-18 were on the lunch lookout for the annual event that began Monday and according to councilors on hand, runs for 9 weeks. Lunches are delivered in bulk to the parks, then paired down into sack lunches and given out to kids until supplies run out. June 14, 2011

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Kids help with the food haul over to the picnic tables at Jefferson Park Monday just before noon as the Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Department kicks off the first day of the annual free lunches program at city parks. A van dropped off the boxes and coolers of food and hand sanitizer at the edge of the parking lot which was then moved, sorted out into sack lunches and given to kids age 1-18 until supplies ran out. According to councilors on hand, the program runs for 9 weeks. June 14, 2011

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After the food is sorted out kids line up and are handed out the brown bag lunches until supplies run out. June 14, 2011

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Councilor Dani Hall loads a banana into one of the sack lunches during the first day of the Walla Walla City Parks and Recreation Department's free lunches program. The program offers free lunches to kids age 1-18 at area city parks while supplies last. June 14, 2011

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Kids do cartwheels at Jefferson Park while working up an appetite for lunch Monday morning. Monday was the first day of the City of Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Department's annual free lunches program at city parks. June 14, 2011

WALLA WALLA -- In the summer months, the city's public parks are a place for children to enjoy a free recreational program, grab a free lunch, and now also enjoy weekly visits from the Walla Walla Public Library.

Monday kicked off the city's UPlay summer program, hosted at four city parks. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., children ages 7 to 12 can register to pass the day in both coordinated activities and free play.

Along with the playtime and activities is a daily lunch, served free to UPlay participants and any children ages 1-18 who wish to show up to designated sites.

Angela Potts, recreation coordinator for the city's Parks and Recreation department, said about 21,000 free lunches were served last summer to area children and teens. That's actually a slight drop, of about 1,000, from the previous year.

Monday's lunch was a turkey corn dog with ketchup, milk, a small frozen juice bar, banana, and small bag of plain chips. Meals are available to youth only, and must be eaten on site.

Potts said families are encouraged to stop by with children and stay to have a lunch, or take advantage of UPlay at Pioneer, Eastgate Lions, Jefferson, and Washington parks.

"We welcome everyone to come," she said.

New this year is a partnership with the city's library, which will visit each of the UPlay park sites once a week through Aug. 12 to bring books to children and run activities geared around literacy.

Books will be on hand for children to read and check out right after lunch is finished at the sites. The library will be at Washington Park on Mondays, Pioneer Park on Tuesdays, Eastgate Lions on Wednesdays, and Jefferson Park on Thursdays, with no Friday visits.

All city youth programs are closed July 4.

Young People's Librarian Elizabeth George said children don't need a library card to check out books through the parks program, but getting children without a card to get one is part of the goal.

"We really want these families in the library using the facilities and knowing what's there for them," George said as she finished the afternoon at Washington Park Monday, the first of the summer stops.

"Mostly we want to put books in their hands," she said.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.



FOR YOUR INFO

UPlay is a free summer recreation program for children 7-12 years old coordinated by the City of Walla Walla Parks and Recreation department. UPlay will be held Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Pioneer, Washington, Jefferson, and Eastgate Lions parks through Aug. 12. All sites will be closed July 4.

The Walla Walla Public Library will offer a reading program once a week at each site throughout the summer right after lunch.

For information on the federal Summer Food Service Program offered throughout the city, including a full schedule, check out today's Walla Walla Valley Weekly.

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