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Children March So They Can Play in Safe Neighborhoods

Children in the Cameron Community Ministries’
After School Program call for safe neighborhoods
during the 2018 Peace Walk in the Lyell/Otis neighborhood.
Photo provided by Common Ground Health

Children will take to the streets of the Lyell/Otis neighborhood to voice their right to play in a safe neighborhood.

Participants in the Cameron Community Ministries’ After School Program will hold the seventh annual peace walk, 4:30 p.m., May 30.

Friends, family and community members will follow the children on their daily route along Otis and Cameron streets and Lyell Avenue.

“Our students play a critical role in this movement because it’s their voices that get the attention of government officials in a way that adults can’t,” said Damon Butler, youth assistant at Cameron Community Ministries. “They know that standing up for what they believe in and advocating for themselves and their needs is the best way to see changes in their community.”

Following the march, the 5- to 12-year-olds will share their thoughts on how violence in their neighborhood has affected them and why they need to take a stand for peace.

Children who live in the Lyell/Otis neighborhood experience a rate of violent crime that is 60 percent higher than the rest of the city, according to data from Healthi Kids Coalition, which is part of Common Ground Health, the health planning agency for the Finger Lakes region.

Studies from Healthi Kids and Common Ground show that crime and perceptions of neighborhood safety are barriers to being outside in several city neighborhoods. At the same time, research shows that play is vital to the physical, social and emotional development of children.

The peace walk began in 2013 after shootings in the neighborhood caused Cameron Community Ministries staff to keep children inside during the after-school program. The students and staff decided to launch a response and made signs and wrote poems about why peace is important. They wore T-shirts that called for peace and marched down Lyell Avenue.

The walk is a partnership of the Healthi Kids Coalition, Common Ground Health and the Lyell/Otis Neighborhood Association.