About five years ago, Joshua Banks was driving around Hampton Roads and noticed a playground without any kids.
So Banks, who had been looking for a way to give back to his community, organized a day of activities and invited children of all ages. About 35 kids showed up at a Virginia Beach park to participate in old-school field day events such as kickball and relay races.
Kids Bash has continued each year since, growing from its park location to fill the Virginia Beach Field House. Last year, the event drew about 800 children, making it the largest children’s fitness event on the East Coast, Banks says.
Banks and fellow organizers with his Flex 4 Change organization are expecting this year’s 6th annual Kids Bash — scheduled for Aug. 24th — to be bigger and better than ever. Children from Hampton Roads and across the state are invited to attend.
“It’s all about kids having a fun time,” Banks says. “No matter what the kid is into, we have something they can do.”
The event aims to teach participants about leadership, team-building and problem-solving skills through games and competitions. Children are divided into “Color War” teams that compete against one other in good-natured fun, with one “Kids Bash Team of the Year” at the conclusion. Games include old standbys such as tug-of-war, dodgeball and capture-the-flag but also incorporate newer signs of the time, like a Fortnite dance competition.
“There’s always something new every year,” says Banks, who is from Virginia Beach and also works as an X-ray technician. “It’s always super fun, super interactive.”
The day-long event is for the whole family, with live music, food, inflatables, activities, contests, prizes and celebrity guests. Last year Brandon Showell, a 2017 contestant on The Voice, performed. There are age-appropriate games and activities for all age levels, including areas for toddlers and preschoolers. And while the kids play, parents can visit sponsors and vendors that line up inside the Virginia Beach Fieldhouse. Adults usually end up having as much fun as the kids do, says Banks.
“It’s hard to describe until you’re there,” Banks adds.
Although Kids Bash is the largest annual event put on by Flex 4 Change, the charitable organization does a number of community events throughout the year, including food and toy drives, mentoring programs, health and wellness camps, a father/child challenge, community bootcamps and charity dodgeball and kickball games. Flex 4 Change also sponsors sensory-friendly activities at places like Dave & Busters and Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park.
Banks is also working with local schools to implement children’s fitness programs and hopes to bring Kids Bash-type events to schools around Hampton Roads. He’d like to one day see a Kids Bash in larger cities such as Washington, D.C.
“You hear of kids spending 6-7 hours in front of a screen every day,” Banks says. “We’re trying to do everything we can to turn that around. We really want to see healthier young people. We want to get kids more active and fit.”