Paha Sapa: Play it Forward

Paha Sapa: Play It Forward uses the citizen health care model to deliver a community-based participatory research initiative targeting childhood and adolescent obesity in the Paha Sapa Park area of Burnsville, Minnesota.

The group's mission is to connect families and neighbors through healthy play. Paha Sapa: Play It Forward has many community partners that help support and carry out its mission.

Message From Us

Remember what it was like when you were growing up?

You left the house in the morning with mom waving goodbye and telling you to be home by supper. You spent the day playing ball, catching frogs in the creek, playing tag at the playground, or skateboarding.

The days of kids riding their bikes to a friend's house and playing outside all day long seem to have disappeared. Now, kids get most of their physical activity from organized sports; if we exercise, it's scheduled. Dinners are eaten on the run, and nutrition goes out the fast-food window. Our lives have become fragmented and frayed with everyone going in different directions.

Paha Sapa: Play it Forward is NOT another thing to add to your already packed schedule. There is no registration, fees, or mandatory activities. Events are periodic and often spontaneous, with a focus on active living and/or healthy eating, connecting with people in the neighborhood, and having fun.

What to expect at events:

  • Fun, creative, free, practical
  • Inclusive, accessible
  • Visit with families and neighbors
  • Appeal to wide-range of ages/life stages (e.g., kids, parents, single adults, seniors)
  • Address both eating healthy and being active
  • Sustainable by the neighborhood
  • Provide multiple ways for people to "plug in"

Our events draw on the skills and talents of community members and take advantage of built-in resources, such as parks and hills. We include a variety of activities, not just sports. Every participant has ownership in the events, and community members are welcome and encouraged to attend activities or plan an event of their own and invite neighbors.

As more people get involved with Paha Sapa: Pay It Forward, we hope to see:

  • More people play outside
  • More acceptance of and excitement about healthy food choices
  • A stronger sense of community
  • The growth of leaders who will help continue to carry the mission of making our kids' lives healthier

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Publications & Media


Berge JM, Jin SW, Hanson C, Doty J, Jagaraj K, Braaten K, Doherty WJ. Play it forward! A community-based participatory research approach to childhood obesity prevention [published online ahead of print Nov 30, 2015]. Fam Syst Health.

Media Coverage

  • Star Tribune on January 8, 2013
  • St. Paul Pioneer Press on September 30, 2011