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Photo Focus: First Ever Kids Play Expo

The first-ever Kids Play Expo, held Saturday at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Sports and Fitness Center, was a resounding success, drawing families from across the island for a day of fun, learning and connection.

UVI’s Sport and Fitness Center was packed with vendors providing informational resources for adults and fun engaging activities for young attendees. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
UVI’s Sport and Fitness Center was packed with vendors providing informational resources for adults and fun engaging activities for young attendees. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

A collaborative effort between LJM Business Solutions, Island Vibes, and the Virgin Islands Children’s Museum, the event provided a unique experience tailored specifically for children.

“This event has been years in the making,” said Liza Margolis, founder of LJM Business Solutions and one of the primary event organizers. “We really wanted to put together something that is just for the kids that prioritizes their growth and development. Today’s event is part of an even larger initiative to get our community members, and specifically families, connected with the resources available to their children.”

The expo featured a variety of booths and attractions, from a mini aquarium petting station to an outdoor pop-up skate park.

Kayla Israel, from Skate St. Thomas, helps Dylan Stevens, professional skater in the making, position himself for an epic launch. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Kayla Israel, from Skate St. Thomas, helps Dylan Stevens, professional skater in the making, position himself for an epic launch. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Children playing at a pop-up pickleball station, one of the many on-site activity stations. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Children playing at a pop-up pickleball station, one of the many on-site activity stations. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

“One of the neat things about today’s expo is that while obviously the kids get to have a ball, this event is also part of an even larger initiative that we’re getting ready to roll out in the way of an online network, called the Kids Play Network.  The network will be hosted on VICM’s website and will be a one-stop-shop that anyone can access and utilize as a resource base for all things kid-related,” noted Vernon Araujo, director of philanthropy at Alpine Securities USVI LLC and event organizer.

Nicole Greaux, fisheries liaison for Reef Responsible Sea Food Sustainability, introduces the petting station to young attendees. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Nicole Greaux, fisheries liaison for Reef Responsible Sea Food Sustainability, introduces the petting station to young attendees. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

“I think it’s so important to educate adults and children alike on the importance of practicing sustainable fishing and understanding seasonal fishing rules and size limits for catches,” shared Nicole Greaux, fisheries liaison for Reef Responsible Seafood Sustainability. “In addition to our petting station, we have a neat interactive game that teaches kids about which fish can be caught, and which should be put back in the ocean, along with other fun facts that help teach them what they need to know,” she added.

Casey Payton, Esq., executive director of VI Justice Initiative. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Casey Payton, Esq., executive director of VI Justice Initiative. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

“Our mission at the VI Justice Initiative is multi-fold, but specifically for the kids, we prioritize going around to the schools and educating them on environmental justice and poverty law. We also share information on how breaking the law can impact them in ways they may have not thought about, from earning potential to which colleges they can attend,” noted Casey Payton, Esq., executive director of VI Justice Initiative.

In addition to the abundance of educational activities, the expo also included a wide variety of entertaining performances, highlighting many of the community’s talented youth.

Students from Shen Dragon Karate Dojo follow instructor Celine Otto, leading them through a series of precise karate moves. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Students from Shen Dragon Karate Dojo follow instructor Celine Otto, leading them through a series of precise karate moves. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Aysia Frett, a member of the FAPA USVI Dance Academy, performing a beautifully choreographed sequence. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Aysia Frett, a member of the FAPA USVI Dance Academy, performing a beautifully choreographed sequence. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Dr. Adam Parr plays a game of Mancala with Umojah-I Lloyd, Aaliyah Paul and (standing) Gianni Ayala. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Dr. Adam Parr plays a game of Mancala with Umojah-I Lloyd, Aaliyah Paul and (standing) Gianni Ayala. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

Another exciting attraction was a pop-up space for the children’s museum’s “Teen Time” program which is currently on hold due to the need for additional grant funding. Amber M. McCammon, executive director of facilities and programs at the VICM, shared, “this program has been so helpful for kids to feel like they have a second home and it’s become an important part of their socialization, logic building, and emotional development, particularly coming out of the pandemic.”

Event organizers Chantel Hoheb, executive director of operations and development at VICM, Vernon Araujo, director of philanthropy at Alpine Securities USVI LLC, Amber M. McCammon, executive director of facilities and programs at the VICM and Liza Margolis, founder of LJM Business Solutions. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)
Event organizers Chantel Hoheb, executive director of operations and development at VICM, Vernon Araujo, director of philanthropy at Alpine Securities USVI LLC, Amber M. McCammon, executive director of facilities and programs at the VICM and Liza Margolis, founder of LJM Business Solutions. (Source photo by Nyomi Gumbs)

“Today’s event was really about connectivity and continuing to actively bridge the gap that exists between families and the available resources for their children. I love that we get the opportunity through this expo and the subsequent Kids Play Network to be a facilitator of this process. At the end of the day, when we’re able to successfully make that connection, that’s what matters most,” shared Chantel Hoheb, executive director of operations and development at VICM and event organizer.

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