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Sellers wants area youth to ‘Come Alive Outside’

August 12, 2011

Tony Sellers wants to get more area youngsters outside to play, and he’s interested in community feedback on how he and others can work together to make it happen.
Sellers, of Sellers Landscaping on State Road 110 near Culver (though the business has a Rochester address), addressed members of Culver’s Chamber of Commerce at the organization’s monthly meeting, held last Tuesday at Diva on South Main Street, about Come Alive Outside, a nationwide initiative among outdoor landscaping entities like his own.
At a recent Chicago event, Sellers explained, landscapers visited Millennium Park and discussed the epidemic of child obesity in America, something he outlined for his Chamber audience at the meeting.
“The goal is to get more people outside,” said Sellers. “Nobody wins unless somebody goes outside.
“Do you remember going camping, or playing on the swing set? A lot of our best memories are outside. This is a family time. Now we’re in front of a Wii or Playstation (video gaming systems). Waving your hands around is (considered) exercise!”
Sellers shared sobering statistics on the state of American culture, including increases in video game sales, families with more than three televisions in the house, and hours youngsters spend in front of TV, computer or video games (an average of eight to eight and a half hours per day).
Showing photos of adults lounging on couches, Sellers noted, “This is our life after work instead of going outside...it’s a slow death inside.”
He also noted the percentage of adults sleeping fewer than eight hours per night has increased as well.
“With computers,” he added, “when do we stop working? I deal with the same problem at home: I work late. I can’t chase (my kids) around as a single parent. Video games become a cheap babysitter.”
Come Alive Outside, he said, seeks to create local outdoor spaces to attract play and exploration, which he said might interpret differently to different people.
Taking in the goings-on at the Chicago conference, said Sellers, “I was thinking about our community....the school is in charge of maintaining the athletic facilities; budgets make it hard to keep places nice for kids. What can we do from a community standpoint so kids can enjoy these things?
“Some of (Sellers’) own employees build (attractive outdoor spaces for customers), but they don’t have the money to have this at their own homes. Maybe a reward is a portable waterfall to take home to sit by their garage.”
Sellers’ goal at this point, he said, is “to get all of you excited about all this, like we were in Chicago....everybody’s talking about (problems of childhood obesity), like Mrs. Obama, but what will be done with it?”
Come Alive Outside, he added, “is a verb.
“We want to entice people to come outside into their back yards; we want kids getting dirty. Do you remember your parents yelling that it was time to come inside? They said (in Chicago), ‘How many of you guys have ever said that to your kids?’ I don’t know if I ever have. Usually I say, ‘Get out of the house!’”
Sellers noted Culver has “an awesome park” and that building a big playground isn’t necessary. Instead, schools might install butterfly gardens or slides could be built into the side of a natural hill in some public space.
Any forward movement in the endeavor, Sellers suggested, “isn’t about just one organization.” Culver’s Boys & Girls Club, Kiwanis, Lions, and other groups may have an interest in feeding into development of more outdoor play space, which could utilize already existent space rather than “building something into the air and blocking the view of the lake.” Students and the community at large could help facilitate such a space, he added.
Chamber member Dick Brantingham suggested Come Alive Outside could naturally interface with some movements already afoot in Culver such as its tree commission and Second Century committee, which three years ago updated Culver’s ten-year plan.
“We’ve accomplished 60 to 70 percent of what’s affordable (in the charette, or ten-year plan),” said Brantingham. “This would be a great opportunity to carry this thing through, and to have the kids as a focus.”
He also added Culver Kiwanis Club recently added a father-child category to its annual bass fishing tournament, which could also connect to Sellers’ ideas.
Sellers also discussed his landscaping business, which he said started in 1998.
A union laborer laid off for the winter at the time, Sellers said he accepted an offer to take over mowing some lawns, which led to his purchasing his own equipment (he still has three of those four initial customers to this day).
“Today we do a little bit of everything,” he explained. “We mow and handle everything from full (lawn) maintenance to installation of sprinkler systems and patios; we installed our first pool two years ago. It’s hard to find qualified help in this area with fuel prices what they are. That keeps us limited in size, which I think is a good thing.”
His landscaping business is “very involved in the community,” added Sellers.
“We maintain the Little League (baseball) diamonds -- we mow and fertilize them. I got Rainbird to donate a sprinkler system to water the fields. We take care of the town of Culver signs (at each entrance to town) at our expense.”
Sellers Landscaping employs between 17 and 20 people, though the number drops to four or five in the winter, he said.

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