The Independence Health Department is one of 50 winners in the Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition hosted by the national non-profit KaBOOM!, which aims to bring balanced and active play into the daily lives of all United States children, particularly those growing up in poverty.

The health department will use its $5,500 total prize to help its “Fun House” at the David Stanley Community Center at the Hawthorne Place Apartments. “Fun House” is designed as a play place for children to use while their parents and/or guardians receive services.

“In effort to help encourage play in desolate areas, IHD partnered with Habitat for Humanity, Independence School District, and Mid-Continent Library to bring play opportunities for children and families at Hawthorne Place Apartments,” Health Director Andrew Warlen said in a city release. “All components of play will not only stimulate physical and sensory activity, but will also encourage community interaction among residents.”

The Challenge, 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, attracted an array of creative ideas to spark kids’ imaginations and get their bodies moving, according to the release. Other winning ideas include painting animal tracks on sidewalks and adding play stations to local community gardens.

“Winning this challenge is a win for Independence kids, and for their chances to grow and develop through play,” Warlen said. “We hope this prize will be the start of something great here in Independence – a real, radical transformation to make play a way of life for all kids and families in our community. Our project addresses equity issues in Independence by making play accessible especially in underserved neighborhoods.”

To learn more about IHD’s Department’s ideas for making play happen everywhere in Independence call 816-325-7184. To learn more about the Play Everywhere Challenge, and view a gallery of winning ideas from cities across the U.S., visit kaboom.org/playeverywhere.

• Independence also has been selected as one of 50 members of the HealthyCommunity50 in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. The city will receive a $10,000 community seed award and will be eligible for prize awards ranging from $25,000 to $500,000.

The Challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties and launched in April during National Public Health Week. According to a release, $1.5 million will be awarded in prizes to small and mid-sized cities, counties and federally recognized tribes that are able to show measurable change over the course of several years working with cross-sector partnerships to implement health innovations and data-driven solutions. Hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions and other public/private entities applied to be a part of the Challenge.

Independence Health Department will work to develop partnerships with volunteer, private multi-unit housing facilities which want to create tobacco-free initiatives for their residents. Participating facilities which choose to adopt tobacco-free policies will greatly reduce the involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke among residents.

All selected HealthyCommunity50 members will be visited by an expert judge panel to answer questions, understand the community’s approach to the project first-hand and speak with the members of the cross-sector team and key stakeholders. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against each other. For more information, visit www.healthiestcities.org, or email Independence Health Department at health@indepmo.org.