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‘Get Kids Outside’

Parks and Rec promoting healthy activities

Special photo                           
Residents from Clayton County gathered around a cozy fire at Clayton County International Park, last year to participate in the “Festival of Trees and Lights.” Lindsey DeLong, marketing and sales specialist, said all proceeds from the event go to Rainbow House, a children’s home, in Jonesboro.

Special photo Residents from Clayton County gathered around a cozy fire at Clayton County International Park, last year to participate in the “Festival of Trees and Lights.” Lindsey DeLong, marketing and sales specialist, said all proceeds from the event go to Rainbow House, a children’s home, in Jonesboro.

It’s all about the children for the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department these days, said Marketing Sales Specialist Lindsey DeLong.

“In general, with us being Parks and Recreation, [our focus] is to get kids active and involved, to promote health and wellness,” said DeLong.

She added that, with the help and dedication of Parks and Recreation staff members, community members and local dignitaries, the department has two events coming up that will benefit the youths of Clayton County.

One is the “Kids Outdoor Festival and Barbecue Competition,” which kicks off this Saturday, following the other event, the “Lake Spivey Road Race.”

And there is a third –– the annual “Festival of Trees and Lights” –– scheduled for next month.

Saturday’s events will be held at the Clayton County International Park, located at 2300 Highway 138 S.E., in Jonesboro, said DeLong. The road race will be from 8 a.m., to 10 a.m., and the kids outdoor festival, from 10 a.m., to 4 p.m.

DeLong said those events are the result of a collaboration with State Rep. Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro), to push the “Getting Kids Outdoors program,” which is part of the Georgia Children’s Initiative, sponsored by Baker.

In a previous statement, Baker explained the purpose of the initiative is to encourage Georgia’s children to participate in outdoor activities and to discover their heritage. He added that the initiative was created because of a lack of exercise by many of the state’s children, and a corresponding rise in obesity and health issues among the young.

This will mark the third year for the outdoor festival, said DeLong, and the proceeds from both events on Saturday will go to scholarships for seventh-and eighth-grade students in Clayton County, for the 2012 Jekyll Island Trip. The trip, she added, will allow youths to explore the ocean and nature.

Last year, DeLong said, there was only enough scholarship money to send 10 youngsters on the trip, but she is hoping that after the events on Saturday, they will be able to send 20 students, by raising a total of $6,000.

Another fund-raiser is the “Festival of Trees and Lights,” which will run from Dec. 2, to Dec. 18. This event will also be at Clayton County International Park. “Festival of Trees and Lights” is a collaborative effort with Rainbow House –– a private children’s home in Jonesboro –– said DeLong. She added that proceeds raised from this event will go directly to the group home.

For more than 20 years, Virginia Gray has sat on the board of Rainbow House. She said she is happy about being the one who encouraged the Clayton County Commission to bring the “Festival of Trees and Lights” to Clayton County.

“I’m very committed to the [Rainbow House] program,” said Gray. “I’ve been designated as the one to represent the board at the event.”

Though this will be the ninth year for the event, Gray said, there’s no way to predict how much money it will raise this year. “It varies from year-to-year,” she said, “but last year, we raised $9,000.”

No matter what the dollar amount, she said, the goal is to help the group home. “I’m praying this year will be a great turn out,” she added.

In an effort to get more youngsters involved in outdoor activities, DeLong said, Parks and Recreation has made it a priority to reach out to the Clayton County School System. The department, she said, works closely with the Board of Education, and through that relationship, will also book local school choirs, cheer groups and others to perform at park events.

She said these events will not only benefit the youths in Clayton County, but are opportunities to encourage the community to get involved, supporting young people and the cause of getting children focused on being active and healthy.