Ok, readers, you may be wondering how does a title, “Scammed? Horrible! Positive Outcome? Absolutely!” belong in the Play and Playground Magazine. I am willing to bet all of us reading this column were, at some time in our lives, taken by surprise, caught off-guard and asked ourselves “How did that happen to me?” We are the folks who love to play, we go to playgrounds to slide, swing and have fun. We are also human and things happen.
On Wednesday, August 7, 2019, I had just left yoga. I sure needed it since I was pooped from joining our city’s National Night event the night before. I literally played in the streets for hours. I am the Executive Director of the nonprofit Let’s Play America (LPA). One of the many ways we help people play is by adding play activities to other events. That night LPA interns and volunteers offered over twenty activities in a street blocked off, so people of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds could go outside and play.
One of the many benefits of the National Night Out event is that the police play with children, teens, and adults. Our Police Chief, Antonio DeVaul was in the dunking booth, - now tell me if that isn’t playful? Several officers played giant chess, corn hole, and other activities. It was a great event and playing helped citizens and police get to know each other by playing together.
On Wednesday afternoon I received a call that led to hours of me being scammed. Most of the money taken was from Let’s Play America and some from my own personal funds. The hours spent on the phone were so stressful that I was in a daze. The next day when I discovered I had been scammed I immediately went to our Police Department and reported this horrible experience.
Two days later Police Chief DeVaul called me to say another person in our community was scammed in a similar fashion as myself. Chief DeVaul asked if I would be willing to be interviewed by ABC Channel News 7. I agreed to the interview. See the link below.
The first month after I was scammed I did not sleep through the night. I would wake up in a sweat asking myself over and over how did this happen to me? What saved me were tons of people who believe in the work we do for Let’s Play America. A friend of LPA, Eric Saul, offered to create a GoFundMe, see the link below.
Life is full of challenges. There are stresses in our lives and many things are out of our control. My faith, time, support and making time to play all were factors that helped me move forward. One night I woke up with an aha moment regarding recruiting for our Board of Directors: why don’t I reach out to play advocates around the country? Within a week Dr. Patty Hohlbein, Kerri Schiller and Louise Bensen agreed to be board members. Patty is a professor whose expertise is emotional play, Kerri is working on her Ph.D. in Adult Play and Louise has years of experience in play for young children. I met all three of these play advocates at play conferences over the last ten years. Play unites us.
I have continued to search for board members and am extremely fortunate to have Dr. Donna Graham, Kerry Richter, and Cherwanda Oliver join our board. All three have been instrumental in helping Let’s Play America promote play.
Donna has a Doctorate in Education and is a terrific photographer. I met her on the tennis court years ago. I nicknamed Donna The General because she is skilled at getting everyone on the court and playing. Donna creates posters, that share our mission, vision and what Let’s Play America is about. You can find this information on our website www.letsplayamerica.org
Kerry has helped close her street to play two years in a row. She arranged for a band to play on her front porch, offered healthy snacks and several neighbors who helped set up the play equipment. Can you visualize over a hundred people playing in the street? Some folks were dancing, others hula hooping and everyone was having a good time.
Cherwanda is known as our Mud Pie Lady. Cherwanda has been leading this activity for years. She works behind the scenes by helping us plan our events. Cherwanda is my partner in leading Play Adventures at the Capon Springs Resort (www.caponsprings.net). We will be there on June 19-21, 2020. Come join us!
Our board of directors met on November 15, 2019, to plan our events for 2020 (see play dates below). We discussed our budget and went over our new Financial and Procedure Manual created by our accountant, Ismenia Peña-Romero. We played a game called, “Go Bananas,” and ended the meeting with a cheer: “We love to play.”
2020 Play Days:
- 10th Annual Mid-Winter Play Day - February 9, 2020
- 7th Annual Adult Play Day - June 6, 2020
- 12th Annual Adult Play Day - September 26, 2020
The bottom line is that we can find something positive in negative situations. What we can do to combat these challenges is to give ourselves playtime every single day. Play can help lessen our worries and physical play activities help us get the much-needed exercise our bodies crave. Our bodies need physical activity, our minds need a break from school and work, and we need to socialize with family and friends. So give yourself daily playtime. You deserve to play.