Birthdays and Smiles, Basketball and Chinatown!

Posted by on Mar 6, 2018 in Blog, Featured Stories |

By Jamila Larson, Executive Director

Michelai Lowe, our Preteen and Teen Site Manager at D.C. General, is celebrating her 30th birthday this month and to mark the occasion, she’s embarking on a trip to China. When she told the preteens that she would be gone for 10 days, one girl was confused, and asked: “Why do you need to be gone for 10 days in Chinatown?” Michelai explained that she wasn’t just going to D.C.’s Chinatown, but flying to the other side of the world. She pulled out a map and the group huddled around to see exactly where she would be going. Volunteers shared stories about their travels and the children imagined where they would like to visit someday. It was a great moment of learning and sharing!

Each week in staff meetings, we share stories like these, stories that highlight Playtime’s impact day after day. One story that sticks with me is of a mother at DASH, our domestic violence program partner, who stood in the corner of our bright playroom crying softly. When Site Manager Tora Burns asked if everything was okay, the mom smiled and pointed to her son playing happily. “It’s just that, I haven’t seen my son smile in a really long time.” As a parent, I can relate to the idea that when our children are happy, we’re happy. Imagine how much more important that peace of mind must be to a mother escaping violence in her own home, and seeing evidence that her son is beginning to heal from the trauma.

This past weekend, we took a dozen children from DASH to a Washington Wizards basketball game—courtesy of the John Wall Family Foundation—where an 8-year-old boy relished his first experience at an NBA game. The home team’s loss was heartbreaking for the little fans, but was made better by the special treat of cotton candy and free refills of popcorn.

As I prepare to mark my birthday this week, I can think of no greater gift than creating more opportunities for joy, discovery, connection, and play for children experiencing homelessness in our nation’s capital. And you can help create such opportunities by donating your birthday to play.

Playtime makes it easy to “Gift Your Birthday for Play.” You can set up your own fundraising page, set a goal, and share your page with family and friends. In fact, Playtime’s Board Chair, Jan Piercy, raised $12,000 in honor of her 70th birthday last fall. Reaching this milestone birthday was made much easier, she said, because she felt inspired by friends near and far supporting her by supporting Playtime.

Please consider gifting your birthday for play to create hundreds more happy memories for many more children in the year ahead.

Jamila ran Playtime as a volunteer since it was founded in 2003 and assumed the role as first full-time Executive Director in 2009. In 2012, she was named a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine for her leadership of Playtime.