Ever since I founded a play committee in Takoma Park, Maryland back in March 2009 play angels started coming out of the woodwork. Some saw a flyer I posted around town, others heard by word of mouth, some read messages on list serves and some I invited to join me on a quest to bring fun free play events to our community. So who is a play angel? A play angel is someone who volunteers to help run a play event or do work behind the scenes, so others can have the opportunity to play.
Every play angel has something to offer. There are the artistic folks who create flyers for play events, people who help with dress-up, mud pies, and Giant Chess. Our dress-up lady Judy has helped for over ten years, Cherwanda known as the Mud Pie Lady who doesn’t mind getting dirty, and Joan who is known as the Queen of the Giant Chess Board. All of these play angels bring a certain flair and excitement to our play events.
When my neighbor Mary moved into a house up the street with her young family, I welcomed her and invited her to help out. Mary has been fantastic over the years, volunteering behind the scenes, writing grants, ordering t-shirts, and getting her family involved. In 2020 the Hanisco family received Let’s Play America’s “Spirit of Play Award.”
On August 3 this year Let’s Play America was invited by our City of Takoma Park’s Police Department to join them with play activities for the annual National Night Out, a fun FREE event for people in our community. That night I met several new play angels (see photo). Teens receive community service hours that are required towards graduation. Their role is to set up activities, invite folks to play, and help with cleanup.
On Saturday, September 25 Let’s Play America (LPA) will hold the 31st Play Day that I have helped plan (see the flyer below). One of my most important play angels is Christine Alexander, my Executive Assistant. In 2019 Christine saw a flyer posted for our September Play Day and contacted me to ask if we accept adult volunteers. This kind of email always makes me believe there really are angels out there. Christine led a very successful and entertaining puppet theatre activity. We started going for walks and the next thing I know our Board of Directors, also big play angels, voted to offer Christine a contract to work with me.
I could easily name hundreds of play angels who have helped us over the years, among them our Takoma Park Community Band, many other bands and performers, Girl Scout troops, past, and current Mayor and City Council members, and our US Congressman Jamie Raskin who leads Simon Says. Other play angels include all the helpers from our City’s Recreation Department, Public Works, and Takoma Park’s City TV. All these play angels make my playful heart flutter.
You too can be a play angel. Invite a family member or friend to play. Contact us at [email protected] if you would like to volunteer in person or behind the scenes. Do you enjoy social media, fundraising, writing grants, editing articles, or just enjoy playing? Send us an email! I would be glad to talk to you on the phone or on a Zoom call.
During the pandemic the Let’s Play America play angels wrote two Play Day Handbooks and held three virtual Play Days. You can order the handbooks on our website (https://www.letsplayamerica.org/handbooks ). Some of the virtual play facilitators and attendees were from around the world. Dr. Winnie and Dr. Robertson led “Crazy Games,” virtually from Hong Kong and South Carolina. Attendees joined in play activities from Hawaii, Hong Kong, Wisconsin, Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
If you are looking to share your talents, give back to your community, or just love the idea of helping people play then make the leap and become a play angel today. Everyone deserves to play!