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Cynthia Gentry
  • Atlanta, GA
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About me

Founding Director, Atlanta Taskforce on Play (ATOP)

Board of Directors, International Play Association
Communications Officer and Editor, PlayRights Magazine

After 20 years working for two international consulting firms I had a classic mid-life crisis and became an artist painting murals for children traumatized by illness or war. One thing led to another (as things often do once you start on your own path) and I began developing websites for chronically ill children (www.SickleCellKids.org, etc.), and running an artists' market at a big Atlanta arts festival, and writing a nationally-syndicated landscaping television show.

The shift to play came quite accidentally. Literally. One early summer evening a violent storm erupted suddenly with a terrifying crack of lightening. I was outside talking with a friend and we ran for cover. Almost instantly there were sirens...too many sirens. The phones started ringing asking if I'd heard the news. A huge 100+-year-old oak tree fell on a car stopped in traffic in front of our neighborhood firehouse. It killed a mom and her two sons. It was my next door neighbor, Lisa, 5-month-old Owen, and 3-year-old Max. They had been in the backseat together while the dad, Brad, was driving. He was untouched.

The next six months were a blur of activity as I found myself coordinating the effort to build a playground to memorialize the family and help Brad make it through the devastating time. Working with the people of Atlanta to, first, make this huge project come together in just 3 months, and, then, put on a massive opening ceremony 3 months after that, changed my life. I had always worked with children, but the more I learned about play the more I realized that it all starts there. It took me a while to understand that it wasn't just fun and games, or frivolousness. Once I got that I was in 100%, and here I am today.

(Cutting the ribbon to open the Cunard Memorial Playground with Dianne Harnell Cohen, the then-Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Brad Cunard, and the then-Mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin. Everyone in a red tshirt was a vital part of the Playground Committee, a dedicated group of neighbors who made the whole playground come together.)


The Atlanta Taskforce on Play (ATOP) was founded as part of an initiative to get the City of Atlanta named "Playful City USA" by KaBOOM!, the national playground-building organization. Over the past 4 years we have worked with the City of Atlanta's Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, KaBOOM!, Park Pride, the Atlanta Public School System, Camp Twin Lakes, and many, many other groups to build more and better playspaces for our children and to educate people about play.

                  (My "baby", the wheelchair accessible treehouse at Camp Twin Lakes.)

Another  initiative is Playable10: International Design Competition. Our partner in this is the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), College of Architecture. After visiting playgrounds outside of the US, I realized how limited our vision of play and play spaces is. Our hope is that this competition will help people see how innovative and exciting playgrounds can be, and maybe get some talented designers interested in a new field, too!

The winning design for Playable1o is being unveiled by Mayor Kaseem Reed in downtown Atlanta's Woodruff Park on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. It was designed by Jeff Santos, a video game designer from Canada.

                           The winning design being installed in downtown Atlanta.


ATOP is a 501(c)3 through a fiscal partnership with Park Pride and I work as a volunteer.

I currently reside near Chastain Park in North Atlanta with my husband Al Dale and his twin children Summer and Jordan. My son and his wife life in Decatur with my grandson Hayden. Al's older son Kris Dale and his wife Claudia live in East Lake with their four month old twins, Wyatt and Callie.

Cynthia Gentry
Founding Director
Atlanta Taskforce on Play (ATOP)
Cynthia (at) PlayAtlanta.org
(404)200-1070

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Cynthia Gentry's Blog

Atlanta, Commit to Being a GREAT Child Friendly City

Click on photo to see the swings in action.

There is a street in Montreal that makes people happy. On that street are 21 swings or 21 Balançoires designed by a group of…

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Posted on July 23, 2014 at 10:00pm

Heartbreak Hill (Peachtree) Here We Come!!

An artist in Bristol England used play to create an amazing experience for the town. Tens of thousands of people applied to be able to make a run down the slippery slide built down one of the city's main streets. Only 350 or so were selected. This looks like SO much fun.

I think Atlanta should do this in the midst of the hot, hot summer and then…

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Posted on May 8, 2014 at 10:54am

Playable Art DC is OPEN!

So excited to finally have Playable Art DC underway. Right now we are looking for 3 perfect sites to place the winning entries. Tell any creative people you know about the competition. It will be open for designs in early June. Let the fun…

Posted on March 22, 2014 at 11:05am

How To Prepare Your Child for a Great Future

Recent issue of PlayRights, the magazine of the International Play Association

I am struck by how the things I love to do today are so reminiscent of how I played as a child. When I was a little girl I would always get the kids in the…

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Posted on February 24, 2014 at 1:21pm

Perfect for My Backyard!

You can always find something inspiring on the PlayScapes blog by Paige Johnson. I saw this today and thought this must certainly be the perfect solution for a sand pit for our grandchildren in our…

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Posted on December 17, 2013 at 2:49pm

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GREAT PLAY RESOURCES

FANTASTIC blog about playgrounds: Playscapes

 

FIND A PLAYGROUND!!

Click for the Find a Playground app to put on your phone.

Playworks 2010-2011 PLAYBOOK

Great information on Nature Deficit Disorder

Pretty much everything you ever needed to know about play.

And, of course, KaBOOM! Find a playground, plan a Play Day, how to build a playground, and much, much more.

Playgroundology, an emerging social science. 

Play Champions of the Year

There just aren't enough words to thank the folks at Landscape Structures for all they are doing to make creative play happen for the children of Atlanta. 

LSI took the new playground at Woodruff Park off of the drawing board and made it come alive. They made the PlayChastain Exploratorium happen for the families and children of north Atlanta. 

Landscape Structures has gone above and beyond and their efforts are greatly appreciated. 

Congratulations to LSI, ATOP's Play Champions of the Year 2012! 

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Ethan E., our first donor

CLICK TO DONATE!

Ethan's grandmother gave him a gift of $25. He gave $20 to ATOP so more Atlanta kids will have great places to play. He kept $5 to get something cool for himself. We think Ethan is pretty cool!

My Face Having Fun


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