Every second Saturday, it's all about the FUN in Donnelly Park.
That's short for Friends in a United Neighborhood, a new, monthly, teen-run activity day for children of all ages.
“They're outstanding events,” said Turlock Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission Chairman Barney Gordon. “I was very impressed with the way they put together a quidditch field.”
That's right. Quidditch. It's the most popular sport at FUN activity days, according to FUN Founder and President Carolyn Ayala, a Junior at Pitman High School.
Muggles unfamiliar with the sport might better recognize quidditch as the sport from the Harry Potter series of books, though the FUN version features pool noodles in place of broomsticks.
“We let the children's imagination run wild,” Ayala said.
Ayala developed FUN through her involvement in the Gallo Early Start Leadership Camp, a weekend seminar which paired local female students with woman mentors from E. & J. Gallo Winery. There, students learned about managing a business – and giving back to the community.
Ayala and her mentor, Leah Gerig, Product Development Project Manager at E. & J. Gallo Winery, quickly decided to address what many see as the biggest problem in Turlock: There's nothing to do.
“A lot of my friends just spend a lot of time going to Starbucks, or going to Target,” Ayala said. “We wanted to give everyone something to look forward to at least once a month.”
Ayala decided to create a monthly event for children of all ages, where elementary school children and high schoolers alike could have a good time. She thought back to when she was younger, going to the park to play soccer, and the light bulb came on.
The City of Turlock came on board as event partners, offering Donnelly Park as a location and handling liability for FUN. About 20 high school volunteers signed on as well, many of them Ayala's friends from Key Club.
On Sep. 8 Ayala was ready to host her first FUN activity day, featuring water balloon fights as a starring attraction. News of the fun spread rapidly and by November's event more than 100 children were in attendance.
“We want to grow from there and really get the community united to have fun,” Ayala said.
Every event has a carefully planned theme with corresponding activities. The themes are inspired by everything from seasonal holidays to favorite books. One upcoming activity day will be focused on The Hunger Games, though without quite so much violence, Ayala noted.
Some activities are always offered, regardless of theme.
In addition to the ever-popular quidditch, archery is a big draw, Ayala said. Though with most bows already broken, FUN planners are in search of sponsors to help purchase new, durable equipment.
Of course, there are more conventional sports as well, ranging from capture the flag to lacrosse and duck, duck, goose. Activities are available for children regardless of ages, Ayala said.
“We've had four-year-olds come and play some badminton,” Ayala said.
Project FUN took a winter break, in hopes of avoiding inclement weather, but will start back up on March 9.
Ayala hopes to make the spring relaunch bigger and better than ever.
“Any citizen, anyone from anywhere should come and participate,” Ayala said. “It's a way for the community to participate as a whole and act like a kid again.”
The next F.U.N. Activity day will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. March 9 at Donnelly Park, near the meadow. The event is free, but parents must sign a consent form for their children to participate.