How city is keeping kids safe, entertained

A tough economy combined with a healthy dose of rainy weather this summer has left many children and families in Boston searching for fun, inexpensive, and creative ways to pass the time. While thousands of tourists flock here every summer, those of us who live in the city sometimes forget about all of the great activities available right in our own backyard. As we pass well into August, I want to share just a few of the exciting programs and events that are keeping our kids safe and entertained.

Realizing that many family budgets are tighter this year than in years past, the Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) has done a wonderful job of offering free and fun entertainment for children of all ages through its Recreational Opportunities for City Kids (R.O.C.K.S) initiative. In fact, more than 40,000 youth from neighborhoods around the city participate in a wide range of activities every week at our 46 community facilities. Throughout the summer, our centers offer terrific programming options – from arts to athletics – every day of the week.

One of our newest programs, which expanded this year after launching last summer, is the R.O.C.K., Roll and Ride. These family-friendly events allow parents and children to enjoy biking in a relaxed atmosphere with music and free food. In all of our efforts to make Boston a more bike-friendly city, the R.O.C.K., Roll and Rides have been a great chance for kids to receive important cycling tips and to learn about bike safety and maintenance. We’re even able to offer free bike rentals so that people new to biking can participate.

While we’re always thinking of new, creative activities, our long-running programs are as popular as ever. As BCYF’s Boston Neighborhood Basketball League (BNBL) celebrates its 40th anniversary, I’m looking forward to the upcoming league championship games. Some of the best young players in our city have competed all summer long to make it to this stage, and I’d encourage you to check out the exciting championship match-ups that will take place at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center on Aug. 20 and 21.

The BNBL isn’t the only program celebrating a milestone, though, as this year also marks the 35th anniversary of BCYF. We’re inviting everyone to join in the birthday festivities by coming to one of our special R.O.C.K. ‘N Splash Birthday Bashes. These weekly Wednesday evening celebrations, held at community pools around Boston, bring hundreds of neighbors together for poolside fun in the sun, a healthy cook-out, music, games, and information about BCYF programming. If you haven’t made it to one yet, don’t worry! You still have a chance to join the fun before they wrap up on August 26.

This summer, I’m especially proud of all of the support we’ve received from our professional sports teams. The Red Sox continue to step up to the plate with the Sox Talks series that brings kids together with their favorite players and coaches. Red Sox legend and new Hall of Famer Jim Rice also recently hosted a youth baseball clinic. The Bruins, who reinvigorated hockey in the Hub with a great season last year, have hosted neighborhood hockey clinics, and the Celtics showed their community spirit by helping distribute food for over 400 families at the Mildred Avenue Community Center as part of Feed the Children.

We’ve had a lot of fun so far, but there’s still more summer left. You can check out all of the upcoming summer activities for kids and families by visiting

Thomas M. Menino is the mayor of Boston.