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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

Play Is Valuable and Powerful All By Itself

Grandson Wyatt at play

Without fail the picture gracing the place of honor on my iPhone is of one or more of my grandchildren doing what kids under five do best - playing just for…

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Posted on May 4, 2015 at 11:30pm

Declaration on the Importance of Play

Did you ever wonder WHY play was important? The International Play Association has just released their Declaration on the Importance of Play. IPA President Theresa Casey says,

“It has never been more…

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Posted on May 4, 2015 at 10:30am

Spring Into Action-Help Get West End Kids an Imagination Playground!

An Imagination Playground in Action at Atlanta's Bethune Elementary School

We need to raise $1,000 this week to ship an Imagination Playground to…

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Posted on April 28, 2015 at 12:42pm

This is the BEST DAY EVER! Snow Day 2015

Photo: Lianne Epstein Deren

Today is supposed to be SNOW DAY 2015 in Atlanta. So far, the white stuff has yet to materialize, but most schools are still closed just in case. That means a lot of kids are hanging out at home. I hope…

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Posted on February 25, 2015 at 4:30pm

Trauma in Childhood Leads to a Lifetime of Disease and Worse-What If You Add Play

   (click on the photo to launch Dr. Burke Harris' TEDmed Talk)

For several years as I have worked with children in traumatic circumstances - from those suffering from chronic disease, to…

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Posted on February 18, 2015 at 11:30pm

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GREAT PLAY RESOURCES

WATCH THIS!!

Watch this video to see why play matters!! 

Aqui esta en Español: 

FANTASTIC blog about playgrounds: Playscapes

 

FIND A PLAYGROUND!!

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

Playworks 2010-2011 PLAYBOOK

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. 

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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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