Support ‘free’ activities for families at park fundraiser

By Genevieve A. Suzuki | Gen-X in a Millennial World

One of the best words to any parent still financially responsible for a child is “free.”

It’s amazing what excites a person after morphing into a walking wallet. Take my husband, who, before our 7 year old was born, would buy pricey toys that reminded him of his own childhood. Nowadays Derek cheers loudly when our kids find joy in Amazon cardboard boxes.

Genevieve Suzuki

Genevieve Suzuki

True story: Our daughter actually spent about three weeks in a huge cardboard box when she was 5. Every time I walked through our living room, I felt like I was strolling a side street in San Francisco as she peered out of her box at me.

“Derek, she’s way too attached to that box,” I said, imagining my daughter on a future “Hoarders” episode.

“Meh, she’s fine,” he said dismissively. “She’s having fun…and it’s free.”

And there it was: Free.

Thanks to a child-sized attention span – and the fact I chopped up the box while she was at kindergarten – Quinn outgrew and forgot the box that took her to the moon (she called it her spaceship) and let her hide while watching “My Little Pony” episodes on her tablet. But Derek was hooked. Free was clearly a very good thing.

It’s not our fault that “free” automatically draws our attention. Companies start targeting us before that first baby is born. “Honey, look, they’re sending actual cans of formula free in the mail!”

There’s also the hospital, which gives you free baby toiletries and baby beanies for your baby’s tiny cranium. Would you have bought it on your own? No, but it’s free and therefore awesome.

Free stuff is great, but even better are free activities. We live for the days when our daughter wants to just hang out at home – outside of the box – and take it easy.

There are many free things to do, such as depend on kind friends to share guest passes to local theme parks or visit one another’s homes to have dinner and watch “The Voice,” but nothing beats a trip to the local park.

For the sake of full disclosure, I have to tell you I sit on the community services commission for the city of La Mesa and on the board of La Mesa Park & Recreation Foundation. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of the parks. After all, when it comes to “free,” our parks are the tops for entertainment. Children can run wild and adults can kick off their shoes and take a fresh-air break.

My favorite park is La Mesita, which boasts tennis courts, a skate park and playground equipment. There’s also a walkway that lends itself well to kids on tricycles, teens in rollerblades and moms with strollers. I’ve enjoyed many play dates, where fellow moms and I have relaxed while our daughters ran off steam. I feel very lucky to have such a great park at my disposal.

So here’s my pitch: On May 20, the La Mesa Park & Recreation Foundation is hosting a fundraiser aptly named “La Mesa Rocks.” Billed as a “swanky picnic for the parks,” the event offers local craft beer, California wine and the excellent musical stylings of Rex and the Parkers. The foundation, which raises money to fund park projects, programs and playground equipment, is asking the community to use one night out of the 365 days in a year to give back to the parks. So while it isn’t free, the fundraiser will help ensure our parks retain their priceless natures.

If you’ve ever gone to any of our parks and enjoyed even just half an hour of green relaxation, please consider giving back to the parks and attending “La Mesa Rocks” so that some of the best things in La Mesa can stay free for our families.

For more information about “La Mesa Rocks” or La Mesa Park & Recreation Foundation, visit

—Genevieve A. Suzuki is a La Mesa resident who practices family law. Visit her website at

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