"D.C. has got it going on!"
Mayor Vincent Gray was enthusiastic Friday as the city kicked off its One City, Summer Fun initiative.
The atmosphere was festive at Banneker Recreation Center, but the underlying focus of the event was serious. Gray wants to keep District residents safe from crime and the summer sun.
"Last year, in June we had 18 homicides; so far, this year we've had two," Gray said.
The hope is that the summer program will keep potential troublemakers busy and kids safe.
More than 30 D.C. government agencies helped showcase a variety of activities being held this summer. Among them: summer camps for kids, public library programs, swimming lessons, arts festivals and a junior police academy job program.
"We're going to make sure people have an opportunity to swim; we're going to make sure they have an opportunity to play; we're going to make sure people have an opportunity to learn and read," said Gray.
Cooling centers with misting sprays and plenty of cold drinks were set up in tents for the crowd of children and seniors in attendance.
Despite the heat, Mayor Gray wants the city to get moving.
"There are a lot of opportunities to exercise," he said. "We have new culture of health -- we want to have everyone trim and fit by the time we get to September, so that we will be the healthiest city in the nation."
Gray urged the city residents to help turn around the negative stereotypes that have been placed on the District.
"There will be somebody who will tell us what's wrong and when it happens, just say, 'Thank you very much and let me tell you the 50 things that are going right,'" said Gray. "'Let me tell you what the District of Columbia is doing great this summer -- let us tell you how the nation's capital is going to have the best summer program in the entire nation in 2011.'"
Part of the city's plan is to teach teens the discipline and pride that comes with a job. About 12,000 high school students will be earning a paycheck for the first time under the Summer Youth Employment program. It kicks off June 27 and runs through Aug. 5.
Not all of the summer activities will be funded through city funds. Dozens of nonprofits have committed to programs as well. Mayor Gray announced Friday that Walmart will be investing $665,000 toward summer services in D.C.
"We are going to have a fantastic summer," he said.