March 10, 2020

Free Play Days and Community Conversation 2020

Building off the momentum from First Night Buffalo on December 31, Project Play WNY partnered with Alfred University and YMCA of the Twin Tiers for a Free Play Zone on February 15. Our goal was to engage Allegany County in a community day featuring Alfred University’s student-athletes as the programmers for each station. More than 40 families joined in on the free play fun.

Is your organization or community group interested in hosting a Free Play event of its own?  Please contact Project Play WNY to learn about how we support community Free Play Days. 

Our first Project Play WNY Community Conversation of 2020, Sports and the Young Mind, took place on February 28. The event was the second of two partnerships with University at Buffalo Center for the Advancement of Sports. The morning was focused on the practice of play and sports in therapy with youth and adolescents. Youth Sports Legacy Fund grantee The Rural Outreach Center presented details on their Play Therapy program, which allows young children to express their feelings through play to help resolve and overcome challenges. The “Play” and the Middle and High School Mind panel touched upon the importance of supporting youth sport coaches and parents as they work with tweens and teens. Kellie Peiper, sports psychology consultant, stated, “Supporting our coaches, changing their narrative by supporting them on the front end as well as the back end is the start of creating a better youth sports culture for our children.” Peiper noted that as a society, we need to be present for children and create a positive experience, but it is also important to provide the support for the adults who are helping create the safe space for youth.

The final panel in the morning session was Sports Therapy Programs Models & Purposes featuring local youth sports coach and sports psychology specialist Carolyn Bell, and keynote guests David Cohen and Rebekah Roulier from Doc Wayne Youth Services. “Doc Wayne” is an organization that focuses on young athletes who have experienced trauma. Their operating model adds mental health clinicians as coaches, who are using the power of sports as a form of therapy. Bell, who works with Niagara Frontier Sports and the Intellectual Athlete, also stressed the importance of educating coaches on current mental health issues. Many of our region’s children are exposed to trauma due to poverty, domestic violence or addiction. Sports provide an opportunity to create an environment to foster children both mentally and physically. Our partners at the University of Buffalo hosted the afternoon sessions, which focused on the mental health of collegiate athletes and professional athletes.

Please email us at if you would like additional information on the topics discussed at the event or to be added to our email list for future events.