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Whole Child Access Pass a great way for students to get discounts, special offers with Metro Parks

January 11, 2018


A message from Park Commissioner Aaron Pointer

The Oakland, Calif., home where I grew up with my brother and sisters was just outside the city’s DeFremery Park. In the 1950s, it boasted all kinds of athletic fields, tennis courts, a community center and a swimming pool that attracted people from all over. It’s where I learned to play baseball and basketball – I didn’t play much football – chess, even table tennis. I attribute access to that park and its programs to my own and my siblings’ development into productive adults.

Not only that, but many of my childhood friends and acquaintances, with whom I shared the park, went on to become outstanding athletes and political leaders. Parks and recreation programs are important.

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That’s why Metro Parks and Tacoma Public Schools introduced a program this fall called the Whole Child Access Pass. It gives all 27,000 children enrolled in the school district, and their families, discounts and special offers for classes and attractions, such as Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Meadow Park Golf Course, community centers and swimming pools.

All parents have to do is sign up through their children’s schools and agree to share information that lets us streamline the registration process. This way, we won’t need additional documentation for kids and families to qualify for financial assistance if it’s needed.

Each Whole Child Access Pass comes with multiple benefits. The full list is long (you can read it here.), but here are a few examples:

  • A free recreational swim each month
  • A free fitness class each month at STAR Center or the Center at Norpoint
  • Discounts at Meadow Park Golf Course and on some community center classes
  • Discounts on family memberships at Tacoma Nature Center, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

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Why are we doing this? It’s the right thing to do. As a member of the National Recreation and Parks Association, Metro Parks Tacoma has a commitment to uphold three key values, called pillars. Two of them are health and wellness, and social equity. The Whole Child Access Pass helps us uphold both. By involving as many children and adults as possible in our parks and recreation programs, we help sustain a healthy community.

I have no doubt that access to our neighborhood park contributed mightily to the success of my friends and neighbors when I was growing up, and many others. And if you look across the United States, I think you’ll see that neighborhoods that are suffering, where young people have lost hope, are those without lively parks and recreations programs.

The Whole Child Access Pass is just one of many ways that Metro Parks works with community partners like Tacoma Public Schools to improve access to park and recreation activities and attractions. For a number of years, we have offered financial assistance, not only to families with children, but also to individual adults. Last year, we increased the total amount of financial assistance available annually to $150,000.

We also look forward to the opening later this year of Metro Parks new Eastside Community Center, on the campus of First Creek Middle School. This collaborative venture will allow the Boys & Girls Clubs to boost the number of Eastside children served. Featuring a state-of-the-art pool, an audio recording studio, fitness rooms, a gymnasium and a social hall, the new center will welcome people of all ages and make sure everyone has access to recreation programs.

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Tacoma-area residents can enjoy one of the nation’s best park and recreation systems. But we need to make sure it’s available to everyone. I know from experience how what a difference access to vibrant park programs makes.

So please pass the word about the Whole Child Access Pass. As your independent park district, we’re here to fulfill the community’s needs by providing healthy opportunities to play, learn and grow.

Aaron Pointer is the clerk of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners. He first became a commissioner in April 2001 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. In 2012, he served as president of the board. Currently, he serves as the board’s liaison to the Metro Parks Arts & Heritage Advisory Council.