Rochester is announced as a Playful City USA
Healthi Kids and the city of Rochester unveiled a sign Thursday listing Rochester as a Playful City USA. From left, Miguel Melendez of Ibero; Marisol Lopez, Rochester's commissioner of recreation and youth services; Dina Faticone of Healthi Kids; Heidi Burke of Greater Rochester Health Foundation; Yahralis Maldonado, 3; Shiir Norris, 2; Zaidah Lampley, 4; mom Elizabeth McCuller; Jenn Beidemann of Healthi Kids.

For the first time, Rochester is being honored with a 2016 Playful City USA designation. The national recognition honors cities and towns across the country for making their cities more playable, and it is given by KABOOM, a national nonprofit dedicated to giving kids a childhood filled with balanced and active play. 

Community initiatives such as #PlayROCs, a Healthi Kids campaign working to promote the importance of play in our community, Rec on the Move, a City of Rochester mobile recreation vehicle that brings play on the road, and Conkey Corner Park, which was transformed by residents and community groups into a safe play space in the heart of the El Camino neighborhood, are chiefly responsible for the City receiving this honor.

“Play is important for the physical, social, and emotional health of kids,” said Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency’s Healthi Kids Director Dina Faticone. “But we know that kids ages 4-11 are getting on average more than 2 hours a day of screen time and 85% of mothers agree that kids play outside less often than just a few years ago. The policies we put in place and the way we design our environments in both schools and communities have enormous impact on whether or not kids exercise their right to play. We’ve done great work in Rochester to change the state of play and will continue to do what’s right for our kids by ensuring Rochester is a playable city for all.

National studies demonstrate that playable cities build community, promote healthy places and foster economic development by increasing the value of surrounding properties and increasing foot traffic to local businesses. This also offers the potential to improve business and job growth and increase tax revenue.  A playable city also helps increase physical activity, improves mental health, and promotes the physical, social and emotional development of children and families in our community.  

“My vision for the City of Rochester is to become the best mid-sized city in the US in which to live, work and play,” said Mayor Lovely Warren. “By promoting playability, we can improve the quality of life in our city for our families, and by doing so we can create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities.”

Sidewalk chalk
Following the May 19 announcement of Rochester as a Playful City USA, kids young and old took up sidewalk chalk to help make a few sidewalks more playful.

A playable city allows for play to happen anywhere, turning every day moments like waiting for a bus, going to the store or walking to school into opportunities for active play. Rochester’s designation enables the city to move forward with the vision of playful sidewalks with hopscotch or mazes; bus shelters that host swings and climbing sculptures; vacant lots turned into playgrounds that inspire creativity and create opportunities for unstructured play; and colorful crosswalks that promote traffic calming and make it safer for kids to play in neighborhoods.

To learn more about these cities, see the full list of the 257 communities named 2016 Playful City USA honorees, or to gather more information on the Playful City USA program, visit We also encourage you to take part in the conversation on #playability with these thought leaders on Twitter and Facebook. 

Since 1996, KaBOOM! has collaborated with partners to build, open or improve nearly 16,300 playgrounds, engaged more than one million volunteers and served 8.1 million kids. KaBOOM! creates great places to play, inspires communities to promote and support play, and works to drive the national discussion about the importance of play in fostering healthy and productive lives. To learn why #playmatters: visit or join the conversation at or