AYER/SHIRLEY -- On Sunday, join the fun and fundraising as the Ayer Shirley Educational Foundation's sixth annual Holdenwood Trail Run winds through the scenic trails of Holdenwood in historic Shirley Center.

Proceeds from the charity run go toward funding educational programs for Ayer-Shirley students. Same-day registration and sign-in begins at 8 a.m. The 2K race begins at 10 a.m.; the 5K, at 11 a.m. For information on the trail runs, visit www.holdenwoodtrailrun.org.

Coinciding with the races again this year is the sixth annual Free Day of Play.

"This year's theme is 'Out of the Box,'" said Shirley Play Board Chair Sue Heinz. "There will be two big multi-age cardboard challenges. One is a Destination Imagination-esque 'Traveling Boxes,' while the other, 'Recycled Community,' is artistic and will be judged on creativity. There will also be a chance for teams to create and play innovative cardboard games."

For Traveling Boxes, said Heinz, kids won't know the complete challenge until the activity begins. That activity will run from 1 to 1:45 p.m.

Recycled Community and the games will begin at 8 a.m., but be ongoing throughout the day. Teams may join in at any time and take breaks throughout the day to participate in the trail runs and the trail run awards ceremony, which is scheduled for noon.

"It's all about the box," said Play Board member Traicy Barrett.


"Kids creating using recycled materials, such as cardboard, brings me back to when play involved the imagination.

"We have children just oozing with creative imaginations. It's going to be an incredible day."

How the teams work

Many older children and teens will be available to help pre-registered teams of up to four children under age 16. Registrations may be completed online at the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District website, www.asrsd.org. .

Team participants need not be Ayer or Shirley residents. All are welcome. Each team should bring small cardboard and other materials, depending on their activities of choice. Items for consideration include tissue paper, permanent markers, pipe cleaners, cardboard tubes, marbles, etc.

"The challenges require preregistration because we'll need to know how many kids are participating and just how much cardboard we will need," explained Heinz. Registration is free.

"We'd love it if each team could design their own T-shirts, as well. We will have small prizes for the most creative designs," said Heinz.

Prizes for the challenges and T-shirts will be awarded at 1:45 p.m.

Food and fun

Besides the cardboard challenges, the Day of Play will feature a 360 Gymnastics obstacle course and bounce house, face painting, cupcake and cookie decorating, Zumba with Carolyn Sargent, hip hop with Maria's School of Dance, a photo booth, and, of course, food.

ShirleyArts! will be providing vegetarian and regular chili and soda to raise funds for its community-based cultural activities. The LAW Technology Advisory Group will be selling pizza to raise funds to improve the school's technology, and the Shirley Play Board will be holding a bake sale with cider, cocoa and coffee to raise funds toward next year's Day of Play and improvements to the Lura A. White Community Playground.

This is a community event, and there are plenty of opportunities for people to volunteer, no matter whether it is in the form of a small donation, helping with the bake sale, setting up, cleaning up, or helping to organize and supervise.

Shirley has been a KaBOOM!-authorized Playful City USA for six years in a row, a feat achieved by only 19 communities in the country," said Heinz.

"KaBOOM! is the national nonprofit dedicated to making children healthier by creating great places to play. They made our LAW Community Playground possible through a $25,000 grant last year, and gave us our first grant to start our first annual Day of Play. 

"We are so proud to continue to partner with ASEF to help raise much-needed educational funds for our schools, and to continue to improve our community's play spaces for all ages," said Heinz.

If you would like to help with this year's annual Day of Play, contact Sue Heinz at 978-425-9447, or skheinz@msn.com.