Coral Gables’ kid-friendliness earns national distinctions
From one end of town to the other, it’s all fun and games for the youngest residents of Coral Gables.
The city is among the 2012 winners of the 100 Best Communities for Young People, presented by America’s Promise Alliance and ING. The city was also named a Playful City USA by the nonprofit organization KaBOOM! in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
So what do the honors really mean?
“Cities are judged for their lasting commitment to youth development through educational initiatives, civic engagement and recreational programs,” explains Maria Higgins Fallon, public affairs manager for the city.
Among sites that demonstrate “lasting commitment” to youth are the Venetian Pool, War Memorial Youth Center, William H. Kerdyk/Biltmore Tennis Center, the Biltmore Golf Course and the Coral Gables Museum, all of which offer children’s activities.
For kids, the Youth Center has after-school programs, summer camps, gymnastics, a performing arts center, dance, soccer, basketball, softball and special holiday events such as a Haunted House and an “Eggstreme Egg Hunt.” For young adults, the Youth Center has a gym, fitness center, outdoor lighted basketball courts and roller hockey ring, auditorium/theater, dance/aerobics studio, specialized classrooms and more.
To celebrate its designation among the 100 Best Communities for Young People, the city invites residents — young ones, in particular — to its first Big Toy Extravaganza outside City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way, on Saturday, Jan. 5, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Children will have the opportunity to view, climb and explore all kinds of fun stuff; there will be face painting, remote-control car races and inflatable games, too, along with food vendors.
Kim Manna has reared her three children — Peyton, 12; Preston, 10; and Max, 6 — in Coral Gables and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
“Preston had her birthday party at the Venetian Pool and had a great time,” Ms. Manna said. “Coral Gables is perfect for families with children who want to be involved in their community. My kids love being active, so it’s great that the Gables offers us so many ways to do that.”
Besides fun and exercise, the city also promotes safety measures. The Youth Resource Unit of the Coral Gables Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division patrols school campuses, investigates youth-related criminal cases, holds special events and provides various camps during school breaks. An additional resource in the Police Department is the Youth Director’s Council, a leadership and community service program for kids to get training in leadership, citizenship, public speaking, financial responsibility and character building.
In addition, the Coral Gables Police Athletic League, a nonprofit recreational organization, encourages health and fitness, instills sportsmanship and helps fight substance abuse and juvenile delinquency.
“Police officers do leadership programs for teenagers and older,” Higgins Fallon said. “They promote a philosophy of civic involvement to prevent school dropout and juvenile delinquency.
“That makes us both ‘kid-’ and ‘future-friendly,’” she said.
Jillian Hopkins is a senior majoring in psychology and minoring in education at the University of Miami.