The United Way’s 3rd annual Games for Good event lasted only a few hours, but it was a time jam-packed full of memorable hands-on activities, games, and teamwork between nearly 600 young professional volunteers and over 500 kids from regional Boys and Girls Clubs. That’s right: 500 kids. 600 adults. All in one room. Playing.
The Games for Good event promotes the value of STEM, physical fitness, and good nutrition in a way that encourages teamwork, problem-solving strategies, and learning from positive role models. This was perfectly epitomized in the coolest event of the day: engineering balloon cars.
STEM kits, donated by Braskem, were provided so that each kid could build (and take home) their own balloon car. Once built the cars were propelled by inflating the balloon then letting go — and let go they did! Kids were up, they were down, they were sideways huffing-puffing-and-blowing their balloons with all their might. The announcement “I’m hearing a lot of popping. If anyone needs them there are more balloons at the front.” was a key one. It was amazing to watch how a small thing like a balloon could generate such joy, fun, and immediate friendship.
The event was magical mayhem. Kids were excited to learn and play. Volunteers were excited to guide the kids and play. And everyone was excited for the balloons. I believe the saying is: Give a kid a balloon entertain them for a moment. Teach a kid how to be silly with balloons? Thrill them for a lifetime. [Pro tip: Tape a balloon to a straw. Blow into the straw and inflate the balloon. Let go. Watch. Repeat.]
Now how best to corral 500 kids? Split them into smaller groups called “pods”. Then let each pod proceed at their own pace through the activities — from the name-game icebreaker to nutrition Bingo to the STEM cars to playing with even more balloons — each group of volunteers and kids got to do each activity and do them at their own pace. It was funny to see two groups contentedly playing Bingo while all the groups around them were shouting and being silly with oodles of balloons. And then, when they were ready, that group too busted out a bag of balloons and went as equally as silly as the other pods. Never missing a moment of joy and enjoying every moment.
It wouldn’t be enough to just say that the United Way’s Games for Good had some good games. Nor would it be enough to say that it did good and spread good cheer through games. While both true, the event was much more than that. The day gave nearly 600 volunteers and over 500 kids a chance to discover some unanticipated common ground — in that lofty slice of heaven called an inflated balloon.
And once that common ground was thoroughly enjoyed the kids bounded off back to their buses and the volunteers floated around just a little longer enjoying some hor d’oeuvres, drinks, and conversation.
To check out pics of all the Games for Good fun check out @unitedwayswpa and #gamesforgood on all your social channels. To learn more about United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s work with children in the community or to get involved with Next Generation initiatives visit: www.uwswpa.org