UpSide readers get it done. Reader response to an UpSide story about Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s effort to collect new swimwear for underprivileged kids has been astounding, says Tiffany Thurman, the department’s chief of staff. “Since the article hit,” she says, “we’ve received an overwhelming response from corporations, local nonprofits, and religious groups that are running their own swimwear campaigns in support of our Suit Up for Summer campaign.” As of early June, the city had received 230 suits, plus 30 pairs of flip-flops, 24 pairs of goggles, and more than $7,000 from big-hearted readers. St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children donated an additional $5,000 to the effort and then sponsored an online campaign that has raised $1,000 more. And then there’s reader Jackie Lewis of Leadership Philadelphia, who spearheaded both online and happy-hour fundraisers to support the cause, collecting more than 125 bathing suits and over $1,500 to pay for more. Parks & Rec will be accepting donations for the rest of the summer. To learn how to help, go to Phila.gov/parksandrec, or call (215) 683-3600.
Hiking to heal. The Irreverent Warriors is a national nonprofit that brings veterans together using humor and camaraderie as a way to improve mental health and prevent suicides. The group sponsors nationwide, therapeutic “silkies” hikes — named for the mandatory hiking uniform of comically short shorts that Marines call “silkies” — that are intended to help vets build healthy emotional support systems. On July 20, the group will sponsor its fourth annual Philly hike in which participants will walk 22 kilometers (13 miles) while wearing 22-kilogram (nearly 50-pound) backpacks in acknowledgment of the 22 current and former U.S. service members who take their lives each day. The hike begins at 8 a.m. at the Plough & the Stars at 123 Chestnut St. and returns around 5 p.m. Civilians cannot participate, but cheering sections are always welcome. Click here for more information, or visit https://bit.ly/2K33NMA.
Full ‘STEAM’ ahead. For the fourth consecutive summer, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation and Drexel University have partnered up to offer a six-week educational camp for children living in a low-income pocket of West Philadelphia, a “promise zone” designated to receive federal assistance to stem decades of decline. The Young Dragons summer program, which runs between June 17 and July 25, is offering science, tech, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) courses to 100 middle-school students hailing from Powelton, West Powelton, or Belmont. Working out of Drexel’s ExCITE Center labs, students are learning about music production, visual arts, virtual reality and sports science. One workshop focuses on the engineering principles behind the designs of popular sneakers; others touch on themes of astrophysics, astroengineering, and astrobiology.
Food for thought. One June 10, a program called “Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers” brought diverse Philadelphians together through a shared meal whose format was designed to help participants build relationships, strengthen community interaction, and establish common ground that would support productive dialogue. The multicultural meal, held at American Swedish Historical Museum in FDR Park, was prepared by Chef Tess Connors of City Kitchen and featured six dishes using Cambodian, Central American, and Italian ingredients. Community members used the opportunity to learn more about each other’s cultures through dishes like Honduran summer slaw, Cambodian-style green papaya salad with cured fish, and an Italian pasta salad with broccoli & ceci (chickpeas). The event is part of a 2019 dinner series that gathers community members together to discuss how to shape the future of their local parks. It is produced by FDR Ambassadors, University of Penn Graduate School of Education, The Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, Reading Terminal Market, and Vetri Community Partnership.