200 compete for fun at Hillsborough Tiny Tots event
TAMPA - Don’t let its name deceive you. The recent Tiny Tots Olympics at Lettuce Lake that drew about 200 youngsters from across the county wasn’t a contest of skill and stamina. In fact, there were no time keepers, judges or competitors to beat at the March 27 event that marked its 30th anniversary of children ages 3 to 5 coming together strictly for the fun of it. “Everyone is a winner in these games,” said Mary Clements Fowler, a senior program coordinator for the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, which sponsored the day’s activities and oversees the Tiny Tots preschool program for toddlers.The two-hour event kicked off in true Olympics style with an opening ceremony in which the procession of participants marched in single file to a designated spot where the American flag was raised. In unison they recited the Pledge of Allegiance and event emcee Jack Reeder shouted out the traditional Olympics “Let the Games begin” pronouncement. Children, with the help of of adults, engaged in multiple activities including the bean bag toss, parachute games, hula hoop relay, a sack race, dribble soccer and the giant inflatable slide. At the end of the day, every child was awarded a ribbon. Youngsters from the Brandon, Ruskin, Westchase and Ruskin’s Gardenville Tiny Tots programs were represented, and for the first time children from two Head Start sites in North Tampa as well as those in West Tampa and Nye Park were present. “We’re trying to work with other agencies in the county to give more children the opportunity to take part in this,” said Fowler, a 30-year county employee who’s had an active role in the Olympics program since its inception. “It’s just a fun opportunity for everyone to play together,” she said. Andrea Franklin, head teacher for the North Tampa Head Start program for children of low-income families, was delighted they were included. “It’s enjoyable for the kids to have the opportunity to interact with other children,” she said. Johanna Sanchez, the mother of 4-year-old Jeremias Sanchez from the Westchase Tiny Tots program, was all smiles as she watched her son pose for a photo with the Easter bunny. “This is his first time here,” she said. “I think it’s been great for him to come out, have fun and be with other kids the same age.”
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMcKenzie@gmail.com.