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Local teen makes big difference through a little fun
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In a generation where playing outside seems to have been replaced with smart phones, and backyard football is being substituted with online gaming, one Turlock teenager still believes that kids have the most fun by simply playing outside.

Pitman High School student Ilene Alya is the newest president of Friends in a United Neighborhood or FUN, a once a month recreation activity group put on entirely by community teenagers.

The concept of FUN is simple: provide a safe and monitored location where kids can simply play and well, be kids. 

“The kids love having a place where they can run around and just be themselves,” said Ayla.

FUN was founded last year by Ilene’s sister, Carolyn. Alya stated that Carolyn came up with the idea while participating in a weekend leadership seminar at Gallo Wineries in Modesto. It was during the seminar when Carolyn had an epiphany to create a place so that the youth in Turlock has something to do.

“Turlock really doesn’t have much to do, especially for the kids,” said Alya. “She thought it was a great idea to do something to change that.”

Hence, the birth of FUN.

The idea was so liked in fact, that it led FUN to gain the backing of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department early last year.

“The City has been very supportive,” said Ayla. “They’ve helped us reserve the locations without it being a hassle to us.”

Since its inception, FUN has provided a safe environment for hundreds of community youth to participate in activities like tag, football, Frisbee, soccer, water balloons and even quidditch.  The playtime is monitored by over 20 community volunteers, most of whom belong to the Pitman High School Key Club. On average, each FUN session lasts around two hours and brings out 20 children, ranging anywhere from kindergartners to fourth graders.

“Parents should know that it really is a totally safe environment to bring their kids,” said Ayla.

FUN kicks off its first event from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. today at Donnelly Park. All ages are welcome.