Thrive to 5 Playfest debuts this March, replaces Walk With Me as new spring fundraising event

Southwest Human Development is excited to be launching its inaugural Thrive to 5 Playfest, a day of play and family fun for young children and families.

We spoke with Louann Phillips, Southwest Human Development’s special events manager, to see what families to expect from the inaugural fundraising event this March.

Q: What is the Thrive to 5 Playfest?

Louann: Thrive to 5 Playfest is our new spring fundraiser! For many years, Southwest Human Development has presented Walk With Me, a fundraising tradition started nationally by Easterseals, that we carried on after becoming their central and northern Arizona affiliate in 2007.

For the past two years, Walk With Me has gone virtual due to the pandemic. Over that time, we engaged our staff and community partners in reimagining what our signature fundraiser could look like and “Thrive to 5 Playfest” was created. Not only does Playfest allow us to showcase all we do for supporting children living with disabilities, but it’s also a platform for sharing the myriad of other work we do to enhance the lives of families with children from birth to 5 years old.

Through play, children learn about the world and themselves and develop social, emotional and physical skills to build upon as they grow. Along with our presenting sponsor, the Arizona Coyotes, we are thrilled to bring the best of all we do to present a day of play dedicated to young children and their families!

Q: What can families expect when they get to the event?

Louann: From the moment families arrive, they will be offered an array of activities created by our early childhood experts. A few examples are our literacy team offering free books and storytimes, our mental health services team creating calming bottles and sharing how breathing helps us to regulate our emotions and our disability team hosting a sensory-friendly play area.

There will be stage performances from local groups such as the 40+ Double Dutch Club who incorporate jumping rope, hula hoops and African Hopscotch into fitness, friendship and building memories for generations to come. There will also be a wide range of yard games for children to play with each other or their parents.

I personally can’t wait to see how many toddlers it takes to move an adult across the line in a game of tug of war! We are still building our lineup, but the overall emphasis of how play supports a thriving childhood will be woven throughout.

Q: Is there a cost for families to attend?

Louann: Thanks to the support of partners including the Arizona Coyotes, Delta Dental of Arizona and CENTURY 21 Arizona Foothills, we are able to make this affordable for any family to attend. Tickets for adults are $10 each and all children attend and play for FREE! Registration is available at swhd.org/playfest.

We know that even a nominal amount can be challenging for some families, so we are also asking for the community to support a “scholarship” to assist with entry fees of those who may find the cost a barrier to attendance.

Q: In addition to attending the event, how else can people get involved and help?

Louann: This event serves as our spring fundraiser, and therefore we are hopeful that many more Valley businesses with a heart for seeing children thrive will step up to join us! We are also inviting residents of our community to start a fundraiser through our Thrive to 5 peer-to-peer fundraising platform as a way to rally friends and colleagues to join them in supporting healthy futures for Arizona’s children.

And an event of this size takes a lot of people-power! We welcome anyone who is interested in donating their time to sign up as a volunteer for one of three shifts throughout the day.

Q: Anything else we should know about the event?

Louann: We are very mindful that COVID-19 is still circulating throughout the community, which is why we are hosting this event exclusively outdoors. In addition, there is limited attendance for each of two time blocks and we are asking everyone who attends to wear a mask.

We expect to welcome both medically fragile children and those under 5 years of age. Since this audience cannot yet receive vaccinations, we are counting on our guests to join us in keeping the environment safe for all attendees.

Southwest Human Development continues to monitor and adapt to the guidance set forth by federal, state and local health officials.

All of the event details, including how to attend, sponsor and volunteer can be found by visiting swhd.org/playfest. We can’t wait to see you on March 12!