A Place to Play and Grow

When it comes to public education, it’s a sad fact that not all kids are on the same playing field, but one Hartford organization aims to help the underprivileged develop their minds and succeed.

At 18 months old, Josimar Perez is rambunctious. Like any kid, he wants to let loose and play, but he doesn't often get the chance.

His mother Reyna told NBC Connecticut she feels bad because they don't have the room in the house and their yard simply isn't safe. Out front, they don't have a finished fence and an ongoing road construction project only adds to the danger.  But that's where Family Life Education comes in.

"We want to make sure that we have the facility in the area that kids can come and have a good time and exercise and be educated at the same time,” said executive director, Candida Flores.

Family Life is a nonprofit organization that helps low-income or unemployed families in Hartford. It offers everything from parenting classes to English as a second language courses. But they're not stopping there. The organization plans to add a children’s fitness and wellness center.

At first glance, the 3,000 square foot space doesn't look like much, but you can use your imagination. The floor will be covered in colorful mats. The center will include a play area where specialists can work with kids on developing their motor skills. There will also be a large kitchen where chefs can teach parents and kids all about nutrition.

”We want to address obesity. We find that parents lack nutrition education," Flores said. Of the 3-year-old children in Hartford, 42 percent are obese or at the risk.

Terry Spak, a designer from Granby, put together a scale model of what the center will look like. She has volunteered to take on the project pro bono and hopes others will soon follow her lead. 

"Hey if you've got any extra doors or if you've got some cabinets, save them for me. If we can salvage, recycle things. If people have stuff at home, benches or something we can refurbish, that's the stuff that is going to make this place impressive,” said Spak, of Corporate Design Professionals.

With a little help from the community and some elbow grease, the children's fitness and wellness center is on its way to becoming a reality. And that's something kids like Josimar can smile about. 

Family Life Education serves nearly 1,000 parents and kids every year. It is located on Arbor Street in the Parkville section of Hartford. If you'd like to learn more about the organization and how you can help them click here.

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