Local Detroit churches sponsor play groups to combat obesity

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Detroit – — Several dozen Detroit kids played hopscotch, hula hoops and jump ropes Wednesday to show what they’ll be doing at local churches as part of a new program to get their bodies moving.

Nearly 25 Detroit churches have agreed to sponsor play groups at least twice a week as part of an initiative designed by Detroit’s Institute for Population Health to combat obesity in a city where danger has relegated playtime to inside activities for many kids. The goal is to provide play opportunities for 3,000 Detroit kids.

Called IPOP Play, the program is funded by a $100,000 grant from the Coca Cola Foundation, which will go toward hiring and training play leaders and providing play equipment for each of the churches. Local pastors, civic leaders and health advocates turned out Wednesday morning for the unveiling of the initiative at IHP’s headquarters near the Detroit riverfront.

“In years gone by, children were told ‘You cannot run and play in the churches’,” said Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, pastor at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Detroit. “Now we’re saying you can run and play in the church at least two days a week.”

The play leaders will be trained by Playworks, a national group that supports active play for children at schools and in the community. Present in 23 cities nationwide, Playworks has been working in Detroit for four years, providing training for schools and community centers.

“We’ve heard of food deserts,” Jeannine Gant, executive director of Playworks Detroit, said of broad swaths of the city where residents have to travel miles to find a supermarket. “But there are play deserts here in Detroit.”

ShaRon Breech, 10, said playing outside is her favorite thing to do, though she sometimes has to play in the house.

“I play tag and football and ride my bike,” ShaRon said. “Outside my house, it’s more fun.”

Detroit mom Jessica Pottas, 29, brought her daughter, 9-year-old Kelsey Pottas, to the event, along with two of Kelsey’s friends. After the speeches, the kids grabbed hula hoops and jump ropes to show what the grown-ups were talking about.

“My daughter doesn’t go outside unless I go outside with her, (and) even with me outside with her she’s very limited as to what she can do,” Pottas said.

IPH President and CEO Loretta Davis said Detroit’s streets used to be filled with kids playing outdoor games that many of today’s children have never experienced.

“We want to introduce them to the language of play,” Davis said. “Today, many time kids will say ‘We don’t know what to do (outside).’

“At least two days a week, in all of these faith-based communities, there will be opportunities for children to play.”


Detroit church play sites

Church of the Messiah – Rev. Barry Randolph, 231 E. Grand Blvd.

East Grand Blvd Church of God in Christ,1432 East Grand Blvd.

Fellowship Chapel, 7707 W Outer Drive

Greater Emmanuel Church of God in Christ, 19190 Schaefer Hwy

Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. 7 Mile

Greater Love Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, 17617 Plymouth

Greater Mitchell Temple Church of God in Christ,13737 Curtis

Greater New St. Paul Church, 3090 Cadillac

Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, 18900 James Couzens Highway

Healing Springs Baptist Church, 16281 Hamilton (Highland Park)

Little Rock Baptist Church, 9000 Woodward

New Destiny Church, 12048 Grand River

New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, 6330 Pembroke

New St. Paul Tabernacle Church of God in Christ, 15340 Southfield Drive

North End Church of God in Christ, 234 Custer

Oak Grove African Methodist Episcopal Church, 19801 Cherrylawn

Power in the Praises Church of God in Christ, 1501 Canton

Russell Street Missionary Baptist Church, 8700 Chrysler Service Dr.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1000 Eliot

Saunders Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, 3542 Pennsylvania

Second Ebenezer Church, 14601 Dequindre

St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2260 Hunt

Source: Institute for Population Health