Spring is officially here, and that means St. Louisans will have much better weather to escape outdoors and release energy. Kids will want to hit parks and playgrounds to play their favorite games and sports. Play is an important part of childhood, and it can be much more than just a source of fun. Play therapy is a powerful tool that allows children to express themselves when they don’t have the ability to vocalize their thoughts and feelings. To support local youth, West County Center is working with Saint Louis Crisis Nursery to collect sports balls in support of the nonprofit’s play therapy program.
Crisis Nursery provides support and resources for families facing challenges. Parents can reach out for short-term respite services, and the organization provides children compassionate care, including therapeutic interventions and medical screenings. While the nursery does not offer long-term care, play therapist Lisa Cholley says many families do return, and there is a Family Empowerment program that offers at-home services. “We provide full-circle support for families,” she notes.
The children who stay at nursery locations often are dealing with traumatic circumstances like domestic violence and homelessness. “Children typically won’t sit and talk about their feelings,” Cholley says. “Play and art are better, more developmentally appropriate forms of therapy for them.” The Crisis Nursery play therapy program provides a safe place for kids to engage their creativity, express their feelings and build self-esteem while working with a registered therapist.
Cholley visits the nonprofit’s five locations to help children using a variety of methods, including board games, dollhouses and art. “Play is a child’s language,” she notes. “When kids come to see me, they are able to develop coping skills and process their traumas.” Outdoor play is another key component of Cholley’s work. “Getting outside is really important for mental health, and it’s a great way to boost people’s moods,” she says. The nurseries have playgrounds, and she incorporates activities like playing catch and basketball to help build rapport with kids. “Along with getting them moving, these games help them build skills like cooperation and patience,” she explains.
West County Center will be collecting new and gently used sports balls for Crisis Nursery throughout the month of April. Along with facilitating play therapy activities at the nurseries, the goal is to promote play for children at home. “We’ll be able to send toys back with kids,” Cholley explains. “It will give families the chance to connect with each other through a fun activity.”
This initiative follows West County Center’s recent musical instrument collection to benefit Play It Forward. Marketing director Sean Phillips says the shopping center is always looking for new ways to give back and is excited to partner with Crisis Nursery. “We have a long history with the organization thanks to hosting its annual Celebrity Waiters Night,” he explains. “We’re happy to do whatever we can to support its mission, and this sports ball drive is a natural fit.”
Through the month of April, West County Center will collect sports balls for Saint Louis Crisis Nursery’s play therapy program. Pictured on the cover, standing: Bryan Kaemmerer, Karen Evans, Keith Jackson. Seated: Dianne Mueller with Amelia Cholley, Harrison Ladd, George Ladd with Anderson Ladd. For more information, visit shopwestcountycenter.com.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Tim Parker Photography
Pictured at top: In April, West County Center will collect sports balls for Saint Louis Crisis Nursery.
Photo: Tim Parker Photography