Kids of Missoula took a break from Fortnite and spent their Sunday afternoon rock climbing, practicing Tae Kwon Do and learning how to build their own garden.
Both they and their parents started summer vacation by attending the “Unplug and Play Summer Kick-Off” event, organized by Sunday Streets Missoula and Let’s Move! Missoula.
“In the past, the drive for this event has been just physical activity. But now, it’s about encouraging a daily healthy lifestyle,” said Let’s Move! Missoula organizer Lisa Dworak.
Dworak, also the senior community health specialist for the Missoula City-County Health Department, said Let’s Move! Missoula and its partner organizations rebranded the annual event over the past year to create “5210 Let’s Move! Missoula.”
In years past, organizers provided a week of activities for families to engage in as a way to encourage them to keep their kids active for the summer.
This year, Let’s Move! Missoula and its partners, United Way Missoula, Missoula in Motion, City of Missoula Parks & Recreation and Missoula Family YMCA, produced a list of free and low-cost activities for families to attend through the end of July. With prices ranging from free to only $5, they can take art classes, learn to fence or attend a free visit to Missoula’s insectarium.
“Parents told us that just seven days wasn’t enough. They wanted to know what was going on in Missoula the entire year,” said Dworak.
The summer schedule is available online, and updated events can be tracked on 5210 Let’s Move! Missoula’s Facebook page.
Also unlike previous “Unplug and Play” events, with the kickoff typically hosted earlier in the year at McCormick Park downtown, families now traveled between two parks in the Franklin to the Fort neighborhood.
“What’s great about this year is that we’re bringing the event to the parents and into their neighborhood, instead of them having to go downtown,” said Keri McHugh, COO of Missoula Family YMCA.
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Despite a few days of rain leading up to the event, Sunday stayed clear and the temperature hovered close to 70 degrees by afternoon. Dozens of activities were staged at the two parks, each hosted by a local company or organization. Kids could get a lesson in healthy dieting from Eat Smart Missoula, paint with cattle markers provided by the art program Spark! or get a free lesson in Tae Kwon Do from Championship Training.
With 10th and Grant Street closed for the day, visitors could travel between the two on foot or bikes. Between the two parks, organizations like Hellgate Roller Derby had space and equipment for kids to get their first taste of the sport.
McHugh brought her two sons, Timmy and Jameson, with her for the day. Jameson, 2, found a favorite booth at the start of the event, jumping into the Tinker Garden with a plastic trowel and rake.
With the 30 minute walk between the two parks, kids and their parents easily met 1-hour physical activity goal set by the health department as part of “5210 Let's Move! Missoula.”
Along with the daily hour of exercise, the initiative pushes all Missoula residents to get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, limit free time on a phone or computer to two hours and bring the amount of sugary drinks in their diet, like soda and energy drinks, to 0.
After spending some time on the jungle gym, Ashlee Schleicher pushed her 4-year-old son, Ryder, on a tire swing at Franklin. He had a blue T-Rex painted on his cheek.
“We do our best to avoid watching TV or movies. If he stays inside for too long, he can get to be like a caged animal,” she said.
She and her son hiked the “M” earlier that morning, and planned on moving on to McLeod as soon as he was done swinging.
“Just like any kid, he needs outside play,” Schleicher said.