Several colorful blankets had been spread out over the grass at Playground Fantastico. A group of young children gathered on one for story time. Another blanket held a group painting rainbows on small terra cotta plants. A few laughing adults caught my attention as they sipped coffee and chatted nearby. At a picnic table a pair of children were coaching each other and offering their best tips for successfully peeling a Cutie orange. My own children excitedly broke free of my hand holding as they rushed off to say hello to a child they recognized. This was the scene of the first Rainbow Play Date I attended, way back in 2019, and I was immediately drawn in.
Like the rest of the world, Rainbow Playdates have grown and evolved since that time. What still holds true is the ability these gatherings have as a space to create deep social connections among caregivers and children.
Rainbow Playdates began in 2019 through a First 5 Napa County project that sought to support our LGBTQ families in feeling safe, visible, and connected. Over the last four years, the gatherings have grown to include virtual story times (as a way to stay connected during the COVID 19 pandemic), crafts, and childrens parades. They have expanded beyond playgrounds to meet ups at bowling alleys and hikes throughout our countys treasured outdoor spaces. They are a space where LGBTQ families and ally families can build community.
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Today, Etta Williams and Michelle Dickson (whose families have attended many Rainbow Playdates over the years!) have joined together to organize and host Rainbow Playdates throughout Napa County. Williams has spent her career working with young children and currently serves as the director of advancement at Blue Oak School.
It was important to me as a parent and professional in education to be a part of the leadership of this community endeavor. It is my goal that our impact and reach will continue to grow, keeping kids safe and allowing families to thrive, says Williams.
Having and making social connections can provide a family with support during difficult times and help them celebrate joyful times. When a caregiver has a community to share their challenges with, they can receive support and be connected to resources they might not have known about. They are also able to provide help to others. Rainbow Play Dates act as a community safety net to support the prevention of child abuse, Williams says, Our group creates community that allows both caregivers and children to know they are not alone while navigating waters that can be stressful or intimidating at times.
Rainbow Playdates are held on the third Saturday of each month, locations vary depending on the selected activity for the meet up. For more information visit Napa Valley Rainbow Families on Facebook. The group will also be at the family friendly Yountville Pride Celebration on June 11 from 3 to 7 p.m. which promises food trucks, lawn games, a family dance party, and more. More information is available at Yountville.com/pridecelebrations.
To learn more about the campaign and how to get involved. Visit the CAPC of Napa Countys webpage
Mi Familia, Mi Comunidad: A community education campaign of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Napa County