Suffolk kids enjoy a day in the park

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Children are our most precious natural resource.

On Sunday, the City of Suffolk backed up that oft-repeated phrase by hosting the second annual &uot;National Kids’ Day of Suffolk&uot; event at Planters Park. Dozens of children and parents braved the August heat to take part in the Parks and Recreation-sponsored celebration, as kids and kids at heart headed out for a day of fun.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilman Curtis Milteer got the afternoon rolling with a proclamation detailing the day’s true meaning.

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&uot;We call upon all Suffolk residents to support this worthwhile event,&uot; Bennett read. &uot;We extend our appreciation to the local National Kids’ Day alliance organizations for providing their commitment to improving the lives of children and adults everywhere.&uot;

While serving as mayor of Suffolk, Milteer learned about the commemoration from a fellow mayor.

&uot;I was at a mayors’ conference in Detroit in 2001, and someone brought up the concept of recognizing the first Sunday in August as National Kids’ Day,&uot; Milteer said. &uot;This day’s purpose is to let parents spend quality time with their children, but you don’t have to be a biological parent to have a good relationship with our youth.&uot;

Virginia Sen. Louis Lucas explained the importance of the event to its attendees. &uot;National Kids Day is a much needed effort, which I support 110 percent, that helps to provide a platform to draw the public’s attention to the needs of our children – our future parents, taxpayers, leaders, role models, and, yes, politicians.&uot;

Lucas compared her childhood to the one faced by children of today.

&uot;The 1950s, when my generation was in its tender years, were the days when the neighborhood helped to raise children. These were the days before television invaded our lives. These were the days when people sat on their porches to catch a cool breeze, and, as a result, knew everyone in the neighborhood.

&uot;How many of you know all the people on your street?&uot; she asked the audience. Very few hands went up.

&uot;Is there any wonder why our kids do not have a healthy respect for school and learning? Is there any wonder why their value systems are so far removed from ours? Look who their role models are, who they pattern their lives after: gang members, drug dealers, rap artists, ex-convicts, television and its mass appeal.&uot;

Lewis encouraged the parents in the audience to take a firm hand in the upbringing of their children. &uot;In order to regain control of our children, we must change our culture. We have got to again re-order the hierarchy of who controls the minds and respect of our youth.&uot;

Forest Glen Middle School student Kristi Hall regaled the audience with a rendition of &uot;Part of Your World,&uot; from the Disney film, &uot;The Little Mermaid.&uot;

&uot;I want to be where the people are,&uot; she sang, joined by the audience. &uot;Strolling along down the… what’s that word again? Street.&uot;

&uot;That was enjoyable,&uot; said the 13-year-old, who has performed the national anthem at Hampton Roads Admirals and Norfolk Nighthawks games.

On the other side of the park, children danced, jumped in a Moonwalk, and played baseball and basketball.

Throwing baseballs into a net, Janisha Jones, 9, checked her strength with the speed meter.

&uot;This is more fun than I thought it would be,&uot; the Robertson Elementary School student said of the event. &uot;They’ve got basketball, toys, and slides everywhere.&uot;

The Christian Clowns of Hampton Roads painted designs on children’s faces.

&uot;I just wanted to look pretty,&uot; said Latoya Smith, 9, her face decorated with pink writing. &uot;I’m having a lot of fun. I really liked playing basketball, because that’s my favorite sport.&uot;

Parks and Recreation superintendent (and event leader) Lakita Frazier took a break from handing out pizza and sodas to hungry visitors.

&uot;It’s been hectic today,&uot; she said, &uot;but its’ really rewarding. A lot of people have stepped up to help today, and the kids are having lots of fun. You can’t ask for anything else.&uot;