*Author is Pat Rumbaugh, The Play Lady

Just imagine playing board games, cards, and hanging out with seniors, neighbors, children, preteens, teens, and other adults. This scene is something that can happen anywhere in America.

In Takoma Park, Maryland on every Tuesday evening from 7-9pm at Victory Towers an apartment building on Carroll Avenue you can find anywhere from twenty to fifty people of all ages playing games. As you approach the room you can hear laughter and people enjoying each other’s company.

Sometime in late 2009 I started joining this already organized weekly event. The founders are former librarian Mary Feldman and talented Game Player John Goon. Mary lived in Victory Towers and wanted to start this weekly fun tradition, so she asked John to help her. Mary would weekly bring snacks and John would collect the games from a closet.

When I met Mary I thought she was the champion of Scrabble. She would easily beat anyone in this game in the nicest way. I have fond memories of attending Mary’s 90th birthday party and celebration of her life in the same room that we play games every Tuesday night. Every week she could be found playing with people, smiling and encouraging others to play.

One evening years ago I was playing Rummikub with three other people. I hadn’t won a game that night so Mary asked me if I had had a hard day. I responded, “No Mary, you are just better at this game than me.” We all had a good laugh.

A couple of years ago I shared with Mary and Colleen at the time in her mid-eighties that I was going to ask our City Council for more funding, so I could continue to promote play in our welcoming community. Both Mary and Colleen shared they would like to go with me to the Council meeting. When we arrived and the Council asked for public comments I was pleasantly surprised when both ladies made their way up to the microphone. I recall Mary saying, “Pat comes weekly to play with us, what she is doing for our city is fantastic and I think you should give her whatever she asks for.” I was stunned, but secretly overjoyed.

On a typical Tuesday night my good friend Becca Patti, also known as the Face Painting Lady picks me up and we drive the four short blocks to Games Night. The super seniors do not like us to walk in the dark. We are greeted by hugs and kisses from Tru, short for Trunesh, K short for Karu and Iva. Many welcome us as we come in and take our coats off.

You can find a group of ladies already involved in a Rummikub game. Then there are the Bridge players strolling in. Others arrive and choose a game from one of the four big bins. Some start playing the fun card game called Kings in the Corner. You can find families, teens and other adults mixed in, having fun and playing an assortment of games. Colleen usually arrives a little later and comes smiling ready to play.

Becca and I have been joking that Games Night could be a terrific setting for a sit-com. There are times I have laughed so much that I have fallen off my chair. Iva tells the most colorful jokes; Tru and Iva razz each other sometimes that if we didn’t know them so well we might think they were having an argument.

Many people at Games Night love to ask me, “Hey Pat what have you been playing? Or, Pat what event are you organizing next?” These super seniors, other adults, teens and children attend other play events we offer; play days, when we close streets to play and even Tru, K and Colleen have joined us in the pool at our Splash & Play Pool Parties.

Tips for starting a Games Night:

  • Think of a space in an apartment building, place of worship, fellowship hall, city building with a large space for tables and chairs to play games and easily accessible to as many community people as possible.
  • Having it in an apartment building has its pluses, because the residents that live there do not have to leave the building to play.
  • Getting the event approved for Community Service hours for teens is a huge plus. Many teens join in for years, log hours and have a great time playing.
  • This event brings people of all ages together, so advertise through list serves, by word of mouth, and create fliers,.
  • Ask people to donate games they haven’t used or consider buying one or two for Games Night.

Those of you interested in starting a Games night in your community feel free to contact me. If you are in the DC area and want to come play with us then you are more than welcome. Once you have gotten started send me an email or write me a message on Let’s Play America’s Facebook page. I would love to hear how your Games Night is doing.

All of us who knew Mary miss her and others we have played with over the years. You can learn so much from Super Seniors. I thoroughly enjoy playing with these people, hearing their stories and they remind me of playing cards with my Grandmother whom I played with as a child and into my thirties.

Remember our mission is to help you plan play events in your own community. Now get started and have fun playing!

OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES

1 The Play Lady Tells Us How to Become Play-ers

2 How to Start a Play Committee in Your Community

3 How to Plan a Play Day in Your Community

4 Pushing Play in the Community

5 Why Close a Street to Play?

6 Join an Already Planned Community Event and Promote Play

7 Inter-generational Games Night

8 Community Service: Teens Make Great Play Advocates

9 Start a Play Club in Your School

10 The Benefits of Play Events in Your Community

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Watch one of the two TEDxTalks Pat gave on play.

Pat is the Co-founder of the nonprofit Let’s Play America. Like us on Facebook Let’s Play America.

Invite The Play Lady to your community.

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