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Race to Play marks 1-year anniversary

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The Columbus Park Foundation and its partners this week will celebrate the one-year anniversary of a program to improve and sustain neighborhood parks.

The Race to Play initiative was fueled last spring by $500,000 in improvements at Mead Village, Morningside, Pence Street and Ninth Street parks.

The funding came from foundations supported by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, a Columbus native; Subway spokesman Jared Fogle; and HGTV star Carter Oosterhouse and his wife, actress Amy Smart.

They joined local dignitaries May 8 of last year to unveil new playgrounds at the four city parks, built with donations from their foundations and local supporters.

The public is invited to Thursday’s anniversary event, which will offer free cookouts and activities at three of the playgrounds — Morningside, Pence Street and Ninth Street parks, said April Williams, project and resource development director for the parks department.

Williams said the event will offer:

Information about upcoming programs.

A chance to plant flowers, vegetables or other items in new community gardens built by Hackman’s Farm Market and Cummins volunteers.

Fun activities provided by kidscommons children’s museum, the parks department and Foundation for Youth.

She said the anniversary celebration is meant as a reminder of the city’s commitment to its parks and the role they play in promoting a healthy lifestyle.

George Estep, who owns all of the Subway restaurants in the Columbus area and serves as one of the program’s sponsors, said he is happy to support the program.

Estep said being able to give back as a Race to Play sponsor is important to him because his family members spent a lot of time at city parks when they moved here 24 years ago when other types of recreation weren’t within reach financially.

He said he plans to attend Thursday’s celebration.

Williams said sponsors have provided about $100,000 for park maintenance and have underwritten costs for new community gardens and a family-friendly movie series taking place this summer.

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