Winter Free Play

Keeping Youth Active Over February Break

The Winter Free Play Series aims to provide youth in all eight counties of Western New York opportunities to have fun and enjoy Free Play!

The benefits of Free Play:

  • Free Play gives kids more autonomy over their play time and helps develop lifelong athletes and players.

  • Free Play helps youth through active means of self-discovery

  • Free Play provides today’s youth with natural opportunities for socialization: compromise, cooperation and coordination

  • Free Play allows kids at different levels of athleticism to improve their physical literacy

The application is intentionally open-ended to allow youth organizations to create programs to encourage kid-led play that best suits the youth athletes they serve. Free play can be guided by adults, with help where needed, but should not be instructional.

Organizations with an IRS 501(c)(3) designation, schools or government agencies are eligible for funding. Applicants must be serving youth, especially ages 5-14. Applicants must also be located in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans or Wyoming counties.

Winter Free Play

Applications will open in January for the 2025 Winter Free Play program.

Featured Recipient

“I enjoyed winter free play because I was able to learn new sports and I got to play with my friends.”

Andrea Barreto, age 5

“Winter Free Play was so much fun! I loved getting to learn how to play hockey with The Buffalo Sabres.”

Zion Santiago age 10

“We had so much fun during Winter Free Play! Age, race, ethnicity, etc. nothing mattered, we just joined together for a week filled with fun and exciting play.”

Mr. Tyler

“For many kids living in rural communities, school breaks can feel isolating due to geographic distancing. Inviting our rural families to The Rural Outreach Center to participate in Winter Free Play Zones helped to mitigate these feelings by providing access to social and physical experiences in a safe and central location. Each day we encouraged them to not only socialize with other kids but learn new skills as a part of both indoor and outdoor play. We brought together families from many different rural communities and watched as they developed friendships, shared experiences, and guided each other through new and exciting experiences. The bonds that were created during that short week have left their mark on our community and we will continue to create opportunities that bring these communities together in the spirit of play.”


“Participating in the 2024 PPWNY Winter Free Play Zone was nothing short of extraordinary for our community, The Resource Council of WNY. Over the course of this exhilarating week-long program, children had the opportunity to break away from screens and engage in diverse sports activities they may not have otherwise experienced. Amidst the snow-laden landscapes outside, they joyfully explored a myriad of sports activities inside, each serving as a gateway to newfound passions and experiences. As we bore witness to their contagious enthusiasm and radiant smiles, it became evident that this initiative had woven threads of vitality and wellness into the very fabric of our community, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all involved.”