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Citi boosts Enoch Pratt Summer Reading Program with $15K award

The Enoch Pratt Free Library has received a $15,000 award from Citi that will fund free outreach activities for its Summer Reading 2010 programs.

Summer Reading is an incentive and theme-based reading program offered at all Pratt locations throughout Baltimore. Every year, more than 15,000 children and teens register for the reading program and more than 35,000 participate in the free activities. The goal for registered participants is to read at least one book a week during the eight week session. Through branch-based activities and performances, such as musicians and storytellers, the program is designed to help children build a love for reading, promote family reading and help students continue to learn over the summer.

"Studies have shown that children who read over the summer are better prepared to continue their education when they return to school in the fall," says Carla D. Hayden, CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. "But it's important to emphasize that reading is fun. Sometimes students get so busy they forget that there's more to reading than just school texts."

An important component of Summer Reading is outreach Every year, the library extends its Summer Reading program to 65-70 non-library-branch outreach sites (day camps, recreation centers, faith-based camps, school and day care centers), to ensure that these children have the same opportunities for reading practice as those who attend Library branch programs.

"Our summer learning outreach efforts are our single most effective way to reach children that don't have access to libraries during the summer," says Ellen Riordan, Pratt's Children Services Coordinator. "This generous funding ensures that over 4,000 children in 70 sites across the city have books, a library connection and a positive learning experience."

"The impact of Pratt's Summer Reading program on the local community is immeasurable," says Sheldon Caplis, Citi Community Development Regional Director for South Atlantic. "The contribution to strengthening education and communities across Baltimore makes Pratt an obvious partner for us."

Source: Enoch Pratt Free Library
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Baltimore Grand Prix engines start revving in 2011

It's time for racing fans to start their engines. Izod IndyCar Series officials, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Jay Davidson, CEO fo the Baltimore Grand Prix and Baltimore Racing Development made it official that August 5-7, 2011, The Baltimore Grand Prix will see Indy car racers hit the streets of Baltimore at speeds of more than 230 mph.

"This is an historic day for Baltimore and the State of Maryland, as well as the entire East Coast region, as we have finalized plans for the Izod IndyCar Series racing in Baltimore in 2011," says Davidson.

The August 2011 race will be the first of a planned five-year deal between the City and the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body for the Izod IndyCar Series. With the deal, Baltimore joins a select group of cities, including Long Beach and Indianapolis, hosting an open-wheel racing event.

"This three-day festival of speed will not just include car racing, but will feature family-friendly activities, offer great entertainment and much, much more," says Davidson.

The Baltimore Grand Prix will offer racing enthusiasts as well as those new to the sport, a combination of racing and festivities that will begin Friday morning and culminate on Sunday with the big event - the Izod IndyCar Series race. Organizers are planning a variety of non-racing activities including a family fun zone, go-karting, beer gardens, extreme sports demonstrations, and professional beach volleyball. Live music will also be a major component all weekend that will feature local artists performing during the day and nationally-known acts in the evenings.

Source: Jay Davidson, Baltimore Grand Prix and Baltimore Racing Development
Writer: Walaika Haskins


Baltimore ranks on American College of Sports Medicine's list of 50 fittest cities in U.S.

Baltimore has made American College of Sports Medicine's (ACSM) list of the 50 fittest cities again. The American Fitness Index (AFI) data report, "Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas," evaluates the most populous city areas to determine the healthiest and fittest metro areas in the United States.

The report reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access, and community resources and policies that support physical activity. Baltimore ranked 20th with a score of 53.5, a drop from its place in the No. 19 spot in 2009.

"The ACSM American Fitness Index not only measures the state of health and fitness in our nation's largest communities, but evaluates the infrastructure, community assets, policies and opportunities which encourage residents to live a healthy and fit lifestyle," said AFI Advisory Board Chair Walt Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM. "I liken the data report and rankings to the metro areas 'getting a physical' at the doctor's office. The information learned from the physical will help each metro area identify areas of strength and weakness."

The Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) of Washington-Arlington-Alexandria scored 73.5 (out of 100 possible points) in the AFI data report to achieve the top ranking, just as it did in 2008 and 2009.

Characteristics of the D.C. area that helped it achieve the top ranking are a relatively low smoking rate, a higher-than-average percentage of folks eating the recommended daily serving of fruits and vegetables, and lower-than-average rates of chronic health concerns such as obesity, asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. D.C.-area residents also use public transportation regularly, meaning they are likely to walk to and from their places of work or transit stations. Also, the area of parkland as a percentage of the city's land area is significant, providing residents with lots of space to run, bike, play sports or take a leisurely walk.

Metro areas completing the top five were Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

The western United States dominated the top 10, with only three cities lying along the eastern seaboard. The nation's three largest cities finished in the middle of the pack with New York at 21st, Chicago at 33rd and Los Angeles at 38th.

Education made the difference, working as a valuable predictor of health and fitness; areas with a high percentage of residents with high school degrees or higher are more likely to be physically active and be in excellent or very good health. This group is also more likely to have health insurance.

Source: American College of Sports Medicine
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Visit Baltimore urges visitors to "find your happy place"

Visit Baltimore launched its new campaign intended to help draw tourists and conventions to Baltimore. The "Find Your Happy Place in Baltimore" campaign kicked off with a Guinness World Record that saw 261 proud citizens forming the world's largest human smiley face.

The Find Your Happy Place in Baltimore concept is derived from extensive research that shows people, more than ever, are looking to do things that make them happy after the long economic downturn, says Visit Baltimore. According to the study, people are going back to the basics and embracing the simpler things in life that make them smile and laugh – spending quality time with family and friends and traveling, among others. Visit Baltimore is capitalizing on the national mood and trend with a comprehensive program that promotes those places and things in Baltimore that are certain to make visitors happy.

The campaign is a citywide partnership that kicks off Memorial Day Weekend with an integrated marketing platform that includes advertising on television and radio, in print, and online in key target markets such as Pittsburgh, central Pennsylvania, metropolitan Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington, D.C. Partnerships with the Maryland Science Center, National Aquarium and Baltimore Orioles, among others, are allowing Visit Baltimore to extend the campaign's advertising reach and promotional schedule to ultimately influence more potential visitors with a singular marketing message. Find Your Happy Place will run through December 2010, coinciding with an exhibition at the American Visionary Art Museum, "What Makes Us Smile," opening in October.

"Partnerships with our tourism community have become the cornerstone of our marketing efforts in recent years," says Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore. "We work very closely with our hotels, attractions, museums and restaurants to gain their support and input so we can create the best sales and marketing promotions for Baltimore. We are in this together and that team spirit has never been more prevalent."

Baltimore's entire tourism community has been encouraged to participate in the Find Your Happy Place in Baltimore campaign by designating happy places at their locations and offering their own packages, special events and discounted offers that are sure to make people happy. A special microsite, www.BmoreHappy.com, will direct visitors to happy stays hotel packages; give them the ability to build custom itineraries based on what makes them happy; and provide details on how to enter a "Sweet-stakes" to win great prizes including a cruise from Baltimore on Royal Caribbean, a trip to Sarasota, Florida for Orioles spring training and a variety of other prizes.

Similar to what was done for the Waterfront Invasion in the summer of 2009, there will be Happy Place décor around the harbor that will reinforce the Happy Place in Baltimore message. People can even pick up a "Happy Detector" at the Baltimore Visitor Center to uncover hidden codes around the city that will provide them with entries in the Sweet-stakes.

According to Visit Baltimore, the campaign, which costs $500,000 for advertising, was funded by hotel taxes.

Tell us what you think:

Source: Visit Baltimore Writer: Walaika Haskins

Indy racing to hit the streets of Baltimore in 2011

Getting around the Inner Harbor may test the patience of drivers most days, but a new deal approved by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the City Council will turn the streets of Downtown Baltimore into a world-class race track in August 2011.

The 5-year agreement will allow for an IndyCar® 'Baltimore Grand Prix' street-racing event around the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards. "This is a game-changer for Baltimore," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said after voting to approve the agreement.

The brainchild of Baltimore Racing Development (BRD), the Baltimore Grand Prix will be a three-day event that is expected to draw 100,000 indy racing enthusiasts from across the globe to Charm City and bring in some $80 million dollars to the local economy.Over five years, the race is expected to generate $11 million in direct city tax revenue, create nearly 2000 full-time equivalent jobs and $250 million in spending injected into the City's economy, according to the Economic Impact Report released by BRD.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake says that in addition to filling City hotel rooms and restaurants, the street race will "change the way the world sees Baltimore," as a result of global media exposure to millions of Indy Racing League (IRL) fans who attend similar events in Monte Carlo, San Paulo, Long Beach, and St. Petersburg. The race will be broadcast on national television to more than 3.5 million domestic viewers. Related media and marketing exposure is valued at an estimated $27.5 million over five years, according to the economic report.

As part of the agreement, Baltimore Racing Development will:

  • Share event revenues with the City and pay an annual event fee.
  • Comply with the City's Minority/Women Business Enterprise Program (MBE/WBE).
  • Spend $12 to $14 million on race preparations, using primarily local businesses and labor.
  • Create a 'Community Benefit Fund' of no less than $500 thousand over five years to make grants to community organizations in neighborhoods impacted by the event.

"BRD is deeply committed to Baltimore City. For us, making sure that all City residents, businesses, and communities benefit from this event was a top priority," says Jay Davidson, president of BRD. With the approval of today's agreement, the final sanction agreement between BRD and IRL is expected to be completed in the next two weeks, according to both organizations.

BRD and the City have already begun developing an Event Management Plan to address construction, public safety, traffic, parking, and other community impact issues. The event has already received letters of support from surrounding community associations eager to prepare for the event.

The agreement is an important milestone in making the Baltimore Grand Prix a reality. The event is a three day racing festival with many related events which will be free and open to the public. The race will include several ancillary events including a parade, fireworks, concerts, charity receptions, and celebrity races.

According to the BRD, the next step is for the Indy Racing League (IRL) to sign a sanctioning agreement. That should happen by May 31.

"The Indy Race is a huge event for Baltimore. People travel from around the world to attend and spend money in our hotels, restaurants, and attractions while they are here," says Visit Baltimore President and CEO Tom Noonan. "The national media coverage alone is worth millions of dollars in free advertising for the city that will generate new awareness of Baltimore with convention planners and leisure travelers."

Under the terms of the agreement, the City must modify and improve certain streets and sidewalks and other transportation-related infrastructure to comply the standards of the Indy Racing League.

Funds to improve roadways for the 2011 – 2016 Baltimore Grand Prix will come from two sources: Federal Highway Aid under the Surface Transportation program (STP) and a grant repayment agreement based on the City's share of state Highway User Revenues (HUR). The total estimated cost of improvements is $7.75 million comprised of $5 million STP funds and $2.75 in repayable HUR grants. In accordance with federal and state rules, these funds may only be used transportation-related expenses, and may not be diverted to other City programs.

Source: Baltimore City Mayor's Office
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Teens "geek out" online with Cogito.org

There's been a lot said about the negative impact for kids who spend too much time tied to their computer screen, but according to a recent $50 million study funded by the MacArthur Foundation, using digital media could teach kids something and is not just mindless Internetainment.

Children, according to the study, can learn technical skills, how to get along with people and maintain an online public identity. Some kids are able to take these lessons to the next level by "geekin-out" a peer-driven method of learning focused on gaining deep knowledge and expertise in specific areas that interest them.

Enter Cogito.org, an online community for so-called geeks, gifted middle- and high-school student who live for math and science. Developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth in partnership with other leading centers for gifted children, Cogito, students have geeked out with Terry Tao, 2007 recipient of the Fields Medal in mathematics (the Nobel Prize equivalent on that subject), Johns Hopkins stem cell pioneer Doug Kerr, and geophysicist Allen West, whose theories about the extinction of the great mammals were featured in NOVA on PBS.

Writer: Walaika Haskins

Source: JHU
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