‘National Kids to Parks Day’ Poised to Go Viral as Kids Across America Pledge Online to Visit and Play in a National, State or Local Park on May 21, 2011

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America’s State Parks, National Education Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Among Others, Endorse Initiative

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“We hope National Kids to Parks Day will encourage children across America to get out and play,” said Grace Lee, executive director, National Park Trust.

Children nationwide will take part in a grassroots movement to celebrate America’s parks through play on Saturday, May 21, as they participate in the National Park Trust’s (NPT) first annual National Kids to Parks Day. The national kick-off event for Kids to Parks is planned for the National Mall on Friday, May 20, 2011.

Recognizing that young people spend far too much time indoors and far too little time appreciating America’s magnificent national, state and local parks – the National Park Trust is mobilizing kids across the country for a nationwide park play-in. Already, over 1,600 kids have committed to visit a park on Saturday, May 21 by signing up online at NPT’s Buddy Bison web site (http://www.BuddyBison.org). Buddy Bison, the wooly mascot and driving force behind NPT’s popular educational program, Where’s Buddy Bison Been?® encourages children to “explore outdoors, the parks are yours.” Thirty schools across the country participate in the Buddy Bison program, which includes outdoor lesson plans, activities and games. In honor of May 21st National Kids to Parks Day, the Buddy Bison web site now includes an area where kids can commit to visit a park and provides a slew of resources for outdoor, healthy living.

“Within hours of our http://www.BuddyBison.org website going live with Kids to Parks Day, children and families across America were registering online,” said Grace Lee, Executive Director of the National Park Trust. “We hope National Kids to Parks Day will encourage children across America to get out and play. This simple idea of playing in a park can potentially give millions of kids the reason to get active and get outside just as families prepare for summer.”

National Kids to Parks Day has been endorsed by America’s State Parks, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), National Education Association (NEA), Children’s National Medical Center, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, US Army Corps of Engineers, Children & Nature Network, and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition in support of the First Lady’s Let’s Move Outside initiative to get more youth and families to be active and live healthier by achieving the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA).

Families can sign up to be counted in the national tally at http://www.BuddyBison.org. When they visit a park on May 21, kids can tweet or send in photos to Buddy(at)BuddyBison(dot)org to have their pictures posted online on a national map commemorating the day. Also available online: park activities and ideas for family fun.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed National Park Trust’s National Kids to Parks Day as a way to spotlight the importance of outdoor activity. "Pediatricians often treat children with conditions that could have been prevented, at least in part, through healthy diet and exercise. Safe, healthy outdoor play spaces are vital to ensuring that physical activity and exercise are a regular part of every child's life. In our increasingly digital world, spending time playing outdoors is something that parents need to consciously encourage, to spur active lifestyles in their kids–and help fend off certain obesity-related childhood diseases, like high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes," said AAP President O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP.

NPT is additionally working with cities and towns affiliated with the First Lady’s Let’s Move Cities and Towns program, designed to encourage mayors and elected officials to adopt policies and programs that create systemic changes, reducing childhood obesity. More than 80 mayors across the country have signed official proclamations declaring May 21st National Kids to Parks Day in their city or town and have committed to urge their citizens to make time on this date to take the children and grandchildren in their lives to a neighborhood, state or national park.

National Park Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of our nation’s critical parklands and reconnecting our youth – especially those who are underserved – to nature. NPT’s mission is to provide important recreational and educational parkland opportunities for current and future generations. As people spend more time indoors and as successive generations grow up with less of a connection to nature, NPT wants to build greater awareness and appreciation for the importance of our country’s public lands and parks. To achieve this, NPT seeks to champion the acquisition and preservation of critical national, state and local parklands and to build a greater awareness through education – focusing on our youth.

Media Contacts:
Olwen Pongrace, 202.253.3190, olwen(at)parktrust(dot)org
Tracey Primrose, 301.509.0535, primroseta(at)aol(dot)com

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