When I first began to consider the internship I would have to do as part of my graduate school requirements, I never imagined that part of my job description could be sitting on a sidewalk playing tic-tac-toe with sidewalk chalk. Over the summer I was fortunate enough to work with the wonderful organization, Let’s Play America. Let’s Play America is a nonprofit based in Takoma Park, Maryland that aims to provide fun, free play events to community members of all ages and backgrounds. My internship began as a requirement to fulfill my graduate school practicum requirement, but it ended up being much more.
I am currently getting my master’s degree in public health with a concentration in physical activity. I am interested in how physical activity can have a positive effect on general health and well-being and I was mainly drawn to the internship opportunity with Let’s Play America due to the element of physical activity that they provide for the community via their play events. My role with Let’s Play America was mainly to help with event planning and evaluation. Due to my interest in physical activity, we made a special effort to focus on the physically active activities at the play events and to evaluate which activities participants enjoyed the most. I designed and implemented a survey to give to participants where we were able to determine what people liked the most about the events and which activities they liked best. I also asked for feedback so Let’s Play America could improve on future events. In addition, I helped Pat to write a grant application in order to make future play events possible. I also attended all of the play events that took place over the summer and played with kids and adults alike.
One of the greatest parts of interning with Let’s Play America was working with the wonderful Pat Rumbaugh, whose passion for encouraging play in her community and everywhere is inspiring to everyone she meets. It was truly special to be a witness to how involved the community in Takoma Park is in this program. I met many people throughout the summer who have been going to play events for years and always make a point to donate their time and support to Let’s Play America. I was also able to see the incredible amount of good that these events provide for the community members who attend them. At every event I attended adults were enjoying games they hadn’t played since childhood, kids were using their imaginations to invent new games and ways to play, and people of all ages were spending time with other members of their community and enjoying the day.
I was able to see firsthand the incredible benefits of play for all people as I witnessed people of all ages laughing and smiling as they played. The 6th annual Adult Play Day was the first event of the summer. This event was only for adults and I double-dutched and hula-hooped for probably the first time in 10 years. It was great to see groups of adults playing games together like they were little kids. Pat also hosted a 4th of July play event and parade watch at her house and, despite a downed tree causing the parade to be rerouted and some threatening rain, everyone in attendance had fun playing tennis and board games and watching the kids play in the kiddie pools. At the end of the summer we hosted two events at an apartment complex in Takoma Park and all of the kids came out to play hopscotch, mini tennis, cornhole, jump rope, chess, and some very spirited games of floor hockey.
I had an amazing experience working with Let’s Play America this summer and I will continue to be involved in some way as I continue with my education because it is such a great program run by wonderful people. Pat has a vision to have these kinds of community play events be spread across the country so that other cities and neighborhoods can benefit from play activities and community involvement. After seeing the countless positive effects that this program has had on Takoma Park, I truly hope that this vision will become reality.