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February 23, 2016

Connections Abound at Vroom Pioneers Celebration

On Saturday, kids were zoomin’ around the Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens — they were getting their faces painted, watching in fascination as simple balloons were twisted into mermaids, parrots, and flowers, and negotiating the “natural jungle gym” made by the root systems of the banyan trees. Wait, did I say zoomin’? It would be more accurate to say Vroomin’.

The children and their families are all part of the Vroom Pioneers Pilot Program, which engaged 300 parents and caregivers from Manatee and Sarasota counties as they used the Vroom app. Developed by the Bezos Family Foundation, the app is part of a movement to pair the science of early brain development with actionable tips for parents and caregivers. The app encourages daily interactions that turn everyday moments — such as meal time and bath time — into brain-building moments for children ages 0-5.

The project, which was funded by The Patterson Foundation and implemented through the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in our region, emphasizes early-learning and parent-engagement as part of the solution to help children read on grade level by the end of third grade.

To celebrate the conclusion of the Vroom pilot, the Pioneer families were invited to spend a fun-filled morning at Selby Gardens — one of our region’s cultural jewels. The families had the opportunity to play in and explore the gardens while connecting with local agencies and organizations offering information about services available in our community.

The following organizations joined us under the banyan trees, offering books, bags, activities  and treats for the Vroom Pioneers: Manatee Community Action Agency, Sarasota County Libraries, Manatee County Libraries, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Manatee Memorial Hospital, All Faiths Food Bank, Sarasota Health Department, United Way of Manatee County, Manatee County’s Early Learning Coalition, Sarasota’s Early Learning Coalition, HeadStart, and Manatee County’s WIC.

For most of the families, it was their first time visiting Selby Gardens. We witnessed parents talking and playing with their children and were delighted to hear their comments about Vroom.

“This app gives me great ideas to have fun with my kids while watching them learn.”

“I like this app so much! It helps me with my everyday activities with my baby girl. Vroom is great!”

“I think Vroom is a great idea that brings the family together. My son and I love it!”

“We love, love, love Vroom.”

We had a terrific morning celebrating all kinds of connections. Brain connections fostered by positive parent engagement, connections with nature, and most importantly our connections with each other.

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