101 Days of Summer
The City of South Bend just celebrated Best. Week. Ever. 2017, a dynamic series of events across the community designed to celebrate culture, creativity, and progress. Attendance throughout the week-long festival soared above 50,000 and I couldn’t have been more proud of the individuals and organizations who came together to make this inaugural celebration a success.
For me, one of the most rewarding parts of the week was encountering an extremely diverse mix of people genuinely enjoying our city. Many of these interactions occurred outdoors. It didn’t hurt that last week happened to include the “Best. Weather. Ever.” Nonetheless, it got me looking forward to all the summer events and activities that I enjoy each year…most of which also occur in outdoor places.
The outdoors. Unsupervised and without much beyond our imaginations, many of us can recall vivid childhood experiences of playing outdoors for hours on end. This is especially true if you’re Gen X (like me) or older. The idea of just “going out to play” is something that evokes fond memories. It was something most of us did daily. As we age, however, there’s a tendency to spend less time outdoors, let alone time playing outdoors. I know it’s true for me, and heck, I oversee a parks system!
Worse yet, all the research I’ve been exposed to lately explains that children today spend significantly more time in front of a screen than they do outdoors. A 2010 study revealed, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day. That’s 53 hours per week. Since much of that time is spent “media multitasking” they actually manage to pack more than 10 hours’ worth of media content into those 7½ hours1. That 53 hours of media time compares to only 4 hours per week of outdoor play2. Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, tells the story of interviewing a child who told him that he liked playing indoors more than outdoors “`cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” A recent study even discusses how prison inmates spend more time outdoors than the 80% of children. Unilever recently ran an ad addressing this fact; it’s called “Free the Children: Dirt is Good.”
I won’t use this platform to dive deeply into the problems here, but there is a significant amount of research to reveal mental and physical health issues caused by a lack of time outdoors – including troubles with vision, anxiety, depression, obesity, educational performance, ADHD, and other disorders3. The consensus is, people who spend time more time outdoors are happier and healthier4 and that time outdoors positively impacts self-esteem, civic pride, and public safety5. This is all true without even addressing what it means to have a generation of people who are less connected to nature and the environment.
Quite simply, we need to get in the habit of spending more time outdoors. In the coming months, I’m going to share my outdoor experiences in this “101 Days of Summer” photo-blog. Some of these will be new experiences for me and others will be ol’ favorites. I don’t intend to write much beyond simple captions, but I will include some codes for reference: (FF) Family Friendly, ($0) Free, (SB) Located in South Bend Region, (TN) Trying a New Activity. Whether you follow along or use this as a guide for future experiences, I hope you’ll join me in spending more time outdoors!
City of South Bend
Venues Parks & Arts
PS: Holly Kelly, F.N.P. Dermatology, would be disappointed if I didn’t mention - don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
Aaron Perri is Executive Director of Venues Parks & Arts, a department within the City of South Bend that works to create exceptional experiences and opportunities. Its efforts focus in the areas of health and recreation, parks and conservation, arts and culture, and visitor attraction. Perri, a South Bend native, is a graduate of John Adams High School and earned both a bachelor’s degree and MBA from the University of Notre Dame. Perri recently served as chair of SB 150, the city’s year-long, community-wide sesquicentennial celebration. He also spearheaded the creation of South Bend River Lights – from inception to installation. Formerly, Perri was the executive director of Downtown South Bend, Inc., a non-profit established in 2002 to boost the growth of downtown South Bend. Previous to that he served as general manager of Legends of Notre Dame, overseeing the catering, banquet, and live entertainment facility. Perri is active in many local boards, is a sought after speaker & consultant, and has received state and nation-wide recognition for his community development efforts.