Sandy Foster, Missy Choate and Aaliyah Climes laughed as they maneuver small rollers through neon green and orange paint, then color between openings in stencils to begin filling in the Dragonfly Hopscotch area on the pavement at the Owens Multi-Purpose Center.
The work by Comanche County Memorial Hospital’s TSET Healthy Living program is the beginning of a project that is making the playground at the City of Lawton’s largest recreation center more attractive. Foster said the end result will be a bright, colorful area that will use games painted on sidewalks to entice youth outside.
Southwest Oklahoma’s fickle spring weather forced postponement of the project for several weeks, but Monday, the sunshine and light breeze provided the perfect backdrop for the women as they applied their stencils, then carefully worked paint into them on a wide paved area along the building’s west side and on a sidewalk along the north edge of the playground. In the end, children will be able to play on a bull’s eye, agility ladder and, of course, a hopscotch board.
Climes, activities coordinator for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the games are part of an ongoing effort to expand the offerings at the Owens Center, which already provides recreational opportunities to youths and adults in south Lawton. The games painted on the playground area complement nearby boxed gardens holding squash, tomatoes, carrots and other types of vegetation in a community garden setting that was a collaborative effort spearheaded by Hungry Hearts Feeding Ministry and others.
Climes said she’s excited about the idea of painting games like hopscotch on the outdoor paved area.
“It won’t wash away,” she said, of the TSET project that is giving those who visit the center specific reasons to play outside.
That expands on the activities Owens already offers, from painting classes, to a basketball court, to a summer camp program, to Thursday’s Star Wars-themed May 4 activities (for those who don’t know the significance of May 4: May the Fourth be with you).
The game project won’t stop with Owens.
Foster, programs director for Comanche County Memorial Hospital’s TSET Healthy Living program, said TSET will move to move to the H.C. King and Patterson community centers when Owens is completed, then onto several elementary schools in Lawton and Cache. She calls it a plan for physical activity, one coordinated by the Oklahoma Departments of Education and Health on the statewide level. That program had been specifically geared toward schools, but Foster said she and others wondered why community recreation centers couldn’t participate.
“Where are they after school?” she asked about children, indicating Owens is one of those destinations and Lawton is one of the first sites to paint the play areas in community centers.
The idea is to increase physical activity and physical interaction.
“They play with each other,” she said. “It does encourage kids to be active. And they feel better.”