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The Importance of Play After Hurricane Florence

By Kristina Weatherly | April 24, 2019 | Life at Blue Cross NC

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What is your favorite childhood game? Tag? Dodgeball? Red rover? For me, it was capture the flag.

I have fond memories of running through the woods in my neighborhood with my team of friends in search of the opposing team’s flag. Play was an important part of my childhood, just as it is should be for every child. Play was a way to escape, use my imagination, practice teamwork, and exercise. When children don’t have access to safe play, they can’t get the one hour or more of physical activity needed each day to keep their minds and bodies healthy.

Kristina (l) pictured with Dad and twin sister Molly (r)

Three out of four children in our country don’t get the daily amount of exercise that their bodies need, according to KaBOOM!. There are many factors that can inhibit a child’s access to play, and some North Carolina communities are experiencing this now.

In 2018, Hurricane Florence devastated eastern North Carolina, and many communities are still rebuilding. As a longstanding member of the North Carolina community, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) will join forces with KaBOOM! to support these impacted communities.

“Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of our customers and communities. There’s never a greater need to put that mission into action than after a disaster like Hurricane Florence,” said Patrick Conway, President and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “We know that many families have a long road ahead of them, and we plan to be there to help in any way we can – whether it be through financial support, supply donations or making sure people have access to the care they need.”

The need is great in communities impacted by a natural disaster 

Following natural disasters, play is critical to help kids heal as they deal with the stress of lost homes, lost loved ones and lost routine. It’s the first step towards restoring normalcy and building resiliency for kids, yet play spaces typically aren’t the first part of the community to be rebuilt.

In 2019, Blue Cross NC built two playgrounds in underserved communities impacted by Hurricane Florence. KaBOOM! has had a long-time collaboration with Blue Cross NC, and together we have built 11 playgrounds throughout the state.

Volunteers came together on April 24, 2019, at the Lumbee Cultural Center in Robeson County for our 12th build. The area has been heavily impacted by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018.

The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River, and they have identified Robeson County as their primary homeland.

We’re excited to add another valuable piece to the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center. We’re also very grateful for the collaboration between KaBOOM! and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina,” says Lumbee Tribal Chairman, Harvey Godwin, Jr.

For our 13th build on June 19, 2019, our team visited Bridgeton, NC, a small rural community located on the eastern shore of the Neuse River.  Bridgeton is one of the smallest communities in Craven County with a population of approximately 430 residents.

During Hurricane Florence, more than 95% of the town’s residents had some physical impact on their homes, and as of February 2019, 25% of residents were still unable to move back into their homes. The mayor and city council believe a new playground will provide a much-needed spark of joy for residents to help ease the process of moving home by providing more kid-focused resources in the town.

As I think back on the importance of play during my childhood, it’s a great reminder that play is more than a game of capture the flag. For these communities, it’s a space where kids can be kids as they navigate through the aftermath of a disaster.