In a nation where Netflix, YouTube, and a smattering of social media sites vie for people's attention, cities are beginning to unite for a cause: to unplug.

Spanish Fork and Salem Chamber of Commerce businesses are participating this summer in the Play Unplugged Challenge, with a goal of having local kids and parents avoid television, video games and electronic media of all kinds for 10 straight days. The tricky part, the organization admits, is getting participants to do something else.

“We are hoping that this program can get children out of the house and doing some of these great activities along with their families,” said Cary Hanks, Spanish Fork and Salem Chamber of Commerce executive director. “The program is designed to bring awareness to the public of the many local businesses who support and sponsor this program for the children of Spanish Fork and Salem.

"All 101 local businesses look forward to the increase in summer traffic in their businesses and want to help provide a fun summer for the kids.”

According to the Play Unplugged website, the best way to implement the plan is with a positive attitude and by encouraging kids to replace TV and video game time with summertime activities.

Salem and Spanish Fork businesses will supply Brag Badges, plastic badges similar to dog tags, for residents when they accomplish a variety of things: feeding the ducks, hosting a family barbecue, picnicking, swimming in a lake, stargazing and more.

Hanks has already received children on the hunt for a Brag Badge at her business, Cary’s Designs Floral in Spanish Fork. She is giving out badges and carnations for children who bring in a photo of them with a flower, which Hanks will put on the Wall of Fame.

“The physical benefits of playing outdoors, unplugged, are huge," said Renae Kinghorn, a health and physical education teacher and coach at Salem Hills High. "Kids rarely get the recommended amount of physical activity per day, so childhood obesity is skyrocketing.

"Just 30 minutes of physical activity per day decreases the likelihood of diabetes and other activity-related diseases. It is so vital that we help our kids establish healthy patterns now.”

The South Valley Gym in Salem is offering a Week-Long Fitness Program badge for kids who participate in a four-day fitness camp. The featured activity -- Zumba, CrossFit, boxing, wrestling or jujitsu -- rotates every week.  

“We wanted to participate so we could expose kids to different ways to stay fit,” said Yolanda Moser, owner of South Valley Gym. “The kids will learn that being active and staying fit can be fun, and should be more fun than sitting in front of a TV.”

Moser has two teens and an 8-year-old. The youngest will be participating in the camps. Her teens are fairly active, a trait she attributes to teaching them healthy living as they were growing up.

“If they get in the habit of exercising when they are young, they’ll continue when they are older,” she said.

“I believe that getting the community involved in this initiative creates a feeling of unity and excitement that is needed to make a lasting change in unhealthy habits," Kinghorn said. "Validating our kids in ‘unplugging’ and getting outside will help them to see the fun and joy that comes from healthy living."

There are 101 local sponsors, and each Brag Badge comes with an allotment of points to be submitted for prize drawings. Thanks to many gracious donors, the chamber of commerce provided Play Unplugged lanyards for kids to show off their Brag Badges. To kick off the summer, representatives from Utah Valley University supplied local elementary schools with more than 13,000 lanyards.

“We want to thank the Nebo School District, Utah Valley University, the Daily Herald, Mountain View Hospital, and the cities of Spanish Fork and Salem for their support of this project, along with all the hundred local businesses that will make this summer an awesome experience for our children,” Hanks said.

On Sept. 6, businesses and locals are invited to the North Park Pavilion in Spanish Fork for a community party, celebrating an active, tech-reduced summer.

For more information on the program, badges or activities, visit http://weplayunplugged.com/spanishforksalemunplugged/brag-badges/.

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