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Project FUN lives up to its name
Turlock teen puts kids program idea into action
Project FUN participants play a game of "Quidditch" based on the "Harry Potter" books and movies at Donnelly Park - photo by Photo Contributed

A new community service project ran by kids for kids, is taking the Turlock community by storm. Friends in a United Neighborhood has become one of the newest organizations in Turlock intended to fight childhood obesity, promote lifelong friendships and help kids become acquainted with conventional and non conventional activities.

Pitman High School junior Caroline Ayala created the Friends in a United Neighborhood project in response to a Gallo Winery Leadership Program where she applied and was accepted to learn how to kick off a community organization project at Foothill Horizons camp.

After her return from the camp, Ayala rolled up her sleeves and went to work, providing one of the first actively engaging projects for children by children in the Turlock community.

From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. every second Saturday of the month, Donnelly Park is filled with active children learning to play a large range of sports, including archery, soccer, and even a "Harry Potter" Quidditch match. Ayala said she hopes to include a "Hunger Games" theme, and can’t wait to put her newest ideas into practice.

“I am just really excited for the program,” Ayala said. “I am grateful for everyone who helped out. The teachers, friends from the Key Club, and the city have been a real big help.”

High school students who must complete a certain number of community service hours are also encouraged to participate. Teenage volunteers from Turlock and Pitman High School make up almost all of the staff members. They ensure that the children are safe, and act as mentors for all age groups, especially for preteens.

“We hope that this will help middle school kids transitioning into high school,” said Ayala. “We are trying to unite the community together and help kids looking for something to do.”

The Parks and Recreation Department has partnered with the project, providing resources such as park locations, sports equipment, liability waivers, and a city staff volunteer.

Parental participation is also encouraged.

Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erik Schulze is pleased by the project’s success, which has garnered between 30 to 100 participants since September 2012, and believes that the program has plenty of room to grow based on the positive reaction from the community.

“They do a super job. The kids really do enjoy it. It is not every day we find a group of teenagers to give up a Saturday every month. It shows by the growth of the program how significant this is,” Schulze said.

“I appreciate the city helping out,” Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Barney Gordon said. “They are outstanding events. I was pretty impressed with how they managed to do the Quidditch field.”

The program is free for children of all ages. The only requirement FUN asks is for parents to sign a liability waiver.

The next activity day will be March 9 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Donnelly Park near the volleyball courts. The activities will be Hawaiian themed, and will include a Quidditch match.

To learn more about project FUN, visit