If you sit back and watch a child at play, your eyes may squint as you think back to your own childhood.  Kids often seem so carefree and engaged in the lives of their stuffed animals, Lego people or dolls.  They stage epic battles, tea parties or rock star concerts for their “friends.”  Yet, there seems to be less time for play than ever before.

kids kick soccer ball

Play matters. Image: Shutterstock

U.S. gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglass, along with two fellow gymnasts, has decided to become an ambassador for “Right to Play,” an organization that uses the power of play to empower disadvantaged youth.

Douglas said she is excited to inspire children and boost their sense of self and personal goals as they consider their futures. The three gymnasts will serve as co-chairs at National Gymnastics Day and attend a Right To Play Gymnastics Festival to be held in September.

The announcement marks the partnership of Right To Play and USA Gymnastics.  Together, they hope to “bring the same kind of support to U.S. youth that Right To Play has been bringing to other countries since it was established in 2000.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that this partnership can make a positive difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth in the United States,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics.  “Gymnastics teaches the value of physical activity and many of the life skills needed to be healthy and achieve success.”

girl does gymnastics

Encourage play. Image: Shutterstock

Right To Play CEO Johann Koss won the Henry Kravis Prize in Nonprofit Leadership this year. Koss noted that he was “honored and “excited” about the new effort that works at “bridging disadvantaged communities in the U.S. with opportunities to experience sport and play specifically through gymnastics.” As things stand now, the partnership will extend through 2016.