Faces of Christmas

12 Faces of Christmas: Ariana Martinez Lott and Kevin Lott help kids reclaim inner city playground

Kevin Lott, left, and wife Ariana Martinez Lott foster community through organizing activities for their Lowell neighborhood.
Kevin Lott, left, and wife Ariana Martinez Lott foster community through organizing activities for their Lowell neighborhood. ezamora@fresnobee.com

The basics: Ariana Martinez Lott, 28, and Kevin Lott, 26, substitute teach at various high schools for Fresno Unified School District. The couple live in Fresno’s Lowell neighborhood, just north of downtown.

What they do: The Lotts rally neighborhood kids together by using social media to organize sports activities at Dickey Playground on a regular basis, like flag football, soccer, volleyball and more. They’ve also been hosting youth spring break camp at nearby Lowell Elementary School for the past three years.

Why they do it: They wanted to give back to the neighborhood they love so much by empowering people to regain the playground from gangs and street violence so children can have a safe place to have fun and be kids.

The turning point: Ariana moved into the neighborhood in 2011 for a 10-month internship with The Pink House, a faith-based program that taught three things: leadership development, urban ministry and intentional living. Through this program her ideas changed about what a neighborhood was. Kevin had been doing the same internship in the Lowell neighborhood in 2014 and met Ariana through his sister. They fell in love with the neighborhood and each other. They decided to stay in the neighborhood after they married earlier in 2015, even after they graduated from college and worked for Fresno Unified School District.

Details, details: The Lotts use social media to get the neighborhood kids together to play a variety of sports at Dickey Playground. They’ll often post on Facebook to see whether anyone wants to play a game. Ariana said kids and even adults their age will come out and play. Kevin said they also keep a variety of sporting equipment on hand to change the sports they play. Sometimes it’ll be flag football, or it could be soccer. They even played volleyball recently as someone provided a net for them to play with. They’ve organized spring break camp at Lowell Elementary School with volunteers from the neighborhood and from faith-based organizations like On Ramps Covenant Church. Around 90 to 100 kids participate in activities like arts and crafts, even water balloon fights to keep them cool. Planning for the camp starts two to three months before spring break.

What others say: Phil Skei, pastor from On Ramps Covenant Church, said that when you think about what makes a community, “it’s not large acts by people with great capacity or organizations with huge budgets. Community is really created by thousands of very small acts often by individuals and families. And there’s things that no one usually notices and there’s things that no one ever gets paid to do, but it’s the kind of thing that Kevin and Ariana exemplify.”

How you can help: The Lotts need volunteers during the spring break camp. They also need donations of items like water balloons, snacks, arts and crafts equipment. Contact Ariana at (559) 288-4690.

Paul Schlesinger: 559-441-6659, @PaulSch_Photog

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