Playing with imagination

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Some kids in Coney Island got to exercise their bodies and their minds last week by building their own playground.

Kids at Carey Gardens used an interchangeable play set from Kaboom! — a group that encourages active play to promote childhood development — to construct forts and obstacle courses. The Imagination Playground is made up of interlocking pieces of soft foam in various shapes, allowing children to bend and build anything they can think up.

“I learned how to build new things that I started from scratch,” said Jarlil J., one of the children participating in the June 3 event. “It was fun learning to do new things rather than the same old thing.”

The Imagination Playground was donated to the HeartShare St. Vincent Services Carey Gardens and O’Dwyer Gardens Cornerstone youth programs, which opened last year. The Surfside Cornerstone Program, which has been displaced since superstorm Sandy, is co-located at the Carey Gardens program site.

“I am so proud of how resilient HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services has been in keeping its programs running for the children even though Coney Island was among one of the most storm-ravaged neighborhoods in New York City,” said Patricia Pugliese, HeartShare’s senior director of youth and community programs.

Nathan’s Famous sponsored the event, providing free red hots for the kids, and also donating $1,000 grocery gift cards to both the Carey and O’Dwyer programs, which each plans to use to buy supplies to reinstate their popular cooking classes.

“With this donation, we’ll be able to buy supplies to revive our cooking class with a Top Chef competitive spin on it,” said Nain Merino-Morales, an assistant program director at HeartShare. “Our kids and teens are thrilled for the return of cooking classes at the program, which taught them healthy eating, grocery budgeting and even gender equality, as the young men learned new recipes.”

For more information on how to register your child in a HeartShare youth program, contact Patricia Pugliese at

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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