Naturally Impactful: CRPD Confronts Financial Challenges for Columbus Youth with PLAY Program

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Naturally Impactful: CRPD Confronts Financial Challenges for Columbus Youth with PLAY Program
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Last month, about 170 golfers divided into 34 teams descended on The Ohio State University Golf Club for the chance to play some rounds with local sports celebrities and raise money for the Private Leisure Assistance for Youth (PLAY) Program. For 25 years, PLAY, a program of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, has offered financial assistance for Columbus youth to participate in any of CRPD’s fee-based programs.

The need for such a program came about in the early 1990s. As Jenny Horn, CRPD Sports Development Manager, explained in an email, during that time all city departments were asked to make cuts and search for additional revenue sources.

“The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department was forced to increase fees and began to implement fees for programs that were previously offered at no cost,” said Tom Merritt, Event Chair, Champions for PLAY. “These increased fees helped to sustain programming, but also had the effect of creating a barrier for some children to participate in the classes and camps offered through the Department.”

To confront those financial challenges for Columbus’ children, CRPD created the PLAY program to grant funding for financially challenged kids who want to participate in recreation programs and summer camps that require fees. The primary revenue source for the program became the annual Champions for PLAY golf outing, which this year raised more than $84,000 for PLAY grants.

Any youth 18 years and younger can go to their local community center and register for a PLAY grant, as long as a legal guardian can provide proof of eligibility with a copy of their Medicaid, Caresource, or Molina health card, or with a copy of their ADC card, or with a their most recent federal income tax return.

Three types of grants are available for Columbus youth through the PLAY program; individual, summer camp and group grants.

“Individual grants fund one class per session for each eligible participant up to a maximum of $20,” explained Horn. “Summer Camp grants fund one week of camp for each eligible participant up to a maximum of $90. Group funding allows CRPD community recreation staff to offer unique, specialized, fee-based enrichment programs without having to charge participants. These programs allow youth to experience an activity that would ordinarily be cost prohibitive for them.”

CRPD sees the PLAY program as essential to removing the financial barriers youth may face when participating in park programs.

“We will never turn a child away due to financial need and PLAY allows us to do that,” said Tony Collins, Director of CRPD, in an email. “Every child, no matter what their economic status, should have the opportunity to learn, play and participate in our programs and activities.”


Naturally Impactful is brought to you by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, which works to enrich and change the lives of our citizens. The column is an effort to share the story of how the pillars of Health and Wellness, Conservation and Social Equity drive the work we do. Each month the column will focus on different sections of the department using these pillars to create a positive impact on our residents’ and visitors’ quality of life along with providing basic knowledge of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, #CRPD. To find more about upcoming happenings at your Columbus Recreation and Parks, visit their Facebook pageTwitter page, or columbus.gov/recreationandparks.

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