Healthi Kids Coalition of the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency today announced it was selected as a winner in the Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that awards innovative ideas to make play easy, available, and fun for kids and families in cities across the U.S. The award will be used to create an interactive Story Walk and program at Phillis Wheatley Community Library. Healthi Kids’ receives $10,000 on March 1, 2017, for the project, and will partner with the Rochester Public Library and City of Rochester to complete the infrastructure component of the project by May 31, 2017.

The Story Walk at Phillis Wheatley Community Library will provide an interactive experience for children and adults outside the walls of the library. Stations will be erected around the library to display an active story with vibrant playful sidewalks to allow children and families to play along the way. Children at the library will participate in a program to write the first story and create the interactive sidewalk art for the walk.

The Healthi Kids Coalition’s “Play ROCs” campaign aims to build a culture of play in Rochester by advocating for safer, more accessible places to play at schools and in our neighborhoods. Working alongside community champions including local nonprofits, community leaders, parents, and youth, Healthi Kids brainstormed over 100 ideas and collected community input to identify the top five ideas for submission to the challenge. The Phillis Wheatley Community Library Storybook Walk was selected as one of 50 winners from 26 states and out of more than 1,000 applications nationwide.  

“The Phillis Wheatley Library Project is a step towards realizing a vision for and by our community to bring play back to the lives of our children in the City of Rochester”, said Dina Faticone, Healthi Kids Director. “For too long, our kids have been missing out on an essential part of childhood that sets the stage for their physical health and social development for the rest of their lives. The time to change that is now.”

The Challenge is hosted by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America. Developed in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Target, Playworld, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts, the challenge attracted an outpouring of creative ideas to spark kids’ imaginations and get their bodies moving. Healthi Kids Coalition “Play ROCS” campaign promotes the idea of play everywhere – realizing opportunities to play everywhere in everyday life moments.  

"The children of our city deserve the very best in life, regardless of their circumstances," Mayor Lovely Warren said. "Thanks to Kaboom and Healthi Kids, our children now have another chance to enjoy their library while developing a love of reading along the way."

“Winning this challenge is a win for Rochester’s kids, and for their chances to grow and develop through play,” said Patricia Uttaro, director of the Rochester Public Library. “We hope this prize will be the start of something great here in Rochester as our community transforms to make play a way of life for all kids and families in our community.”

Research shows play is vital to the physical, social and emotional development of children. Play contributes to healthy brain development, strong muscles and is pivotal to how kids learn problem solving, conflict resolution, and creativity--in other words, the skills they need to succeed as adults yet locally, 60% of parents share the lack of safe places to play is a problem. Studies by the Healthi Kids’ Coalition demonstrate the lack of safe places to play, traffic safety, and unkempt playgrounds all deter parents from allowing their children to play outdoors. The Storywalk at Phillis Wheatley Community Library creates opportunities for play to happen where children frequent, allowing play to be part of everyday moments.

To learn more about Healthi Kids Play ROC’s ideas for making play happen everywhere in Rochester, visit To learn more about the Play Everywhere Challenge, and view a gallery of winning ideas from cities across the US, please visit