top of page

How to Encourage Physical Activity During a Global Pandemic

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

CALC's Summer 2020 COVID Response Micro-Grant program created 30 Quick-Win, Community-Implemented Projects

There is nothing that has prepared us for COVID-19: Millions of people around the world have contracted this virus and while the initial shock has been swift, fully sweeping over our plans as both collectives and individuals, these brushes of abnormalities have taken a hold of our economy, our health, our jobs, our families, our day to day lives. With this being said, one of the most beautiful things to observe is how distress and suffering can inspire creativity and courage in what seems to be the darkest of circumstances.

Welcome to a blog that will highlight the power of Denver communities during COVID-19 and explore how the Community Active Living Coalition shifted our grant funds to create micro-grants for residents to create active living opportunities for themselves and their neighbors through their built environment.

This blog will include data, testimony, and many fantastic photos. The full micro-grant case study will be available in Fall 2020.


The COVID-19 pandemic has left a major impact on the communities in Denver. As the pandemic first hit Denver and communities began following City and State guidance, all in-person meetings and events were postponed indefinitely to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. CALC was forced to think creatively about new ways to help our communities. During a time of social distancing, safe and clean public spaces such as sidewalks, parks, and public plazas become even more important for many members of our community, particularly our most vulnerable residents. To support community-led work already happening in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Denver CALC rolled out a funding opportunity to fund up to $500 to community groups to support work in walkability, bike-ability, and/or access to safe and healthy spaces for physical activity. Over three months, we funded 30 micro-grant projects across the Denver region that kickstarted community gardens, bike rides, public art, and more, reaching over 7800 residents. Every project received an in-depth evaluation, with some highlights shared below.

Data & Stories

TESTIMONY - “Thanks so much for doing this for our kids. We really appreciate it. The kids are so tired of being cooped up in the house. You gave us ideas of things we can use from our house to do some of these activities”

TESTIMONY - “Yes! It was more than just encouraging students to stay active, but show them they are still loved and someone is thinking about them. These times are also psychologically testing as well. Everyone responded positively.”

TESTIMONY - “I hope that these kids and families will feel pride in knowing that there are people looking out for them and that this will carry on as the youth grow up and inspire them to want to reach out and help someone else and make change. Hopefully families learned how to be creative in creating physical space and want to do it more often together as a family.”

Why is the process so important?

Our CALC team thought it prudent to make the process of achieving a particular end fit these very special times and the residents impacted. We needed the process to be quick and easy. This piece of the puzzle became very fitting as applicants were applying. We made the application easy to maneuver and came up with a point system to keep track of where applicants were in the process. This allowed us to have direct intervention when applicants did not quite align with criteria. When projects were not aligned, we followed up with technical assistance and advice for applicants who then eventually became grantees. To make the process more equitable we gave additional points to projects that were in equity areas. We were very intentional about making the process streamlined and geared towards residents who are community champions of active living.

TESTIMONY - “This process was very accessible and empowering for both the groups that received the micro-grants. They never would have applied for a grant for themselves before, but this micro-grant has them believing in themselves and taking more of a leadership role with resources in their toolbox.”

TESTIMONY - “The application process was very easy and someone responded to us in a very timely manner. Due to the quick turnaround needed for us to complete our project, our representative presented two solutions and allowed us to pick out which worked best for us to help us mobilize quickly and most effectively.”

TESTIMONY - “The staff made it extremely easy by paying directly for our supplies; no reimbursable expenses were necessary.”

Outcomes and Evidence

CALC found a new way to give Denver communities hope, positivity, and good cheer, through the rolling out of a micro-grant program. This innovative way to deal with the sudden changes and cancellation of in-person events has enabled thirty individuals and small groups to make a huge positive impact on their communities. From bilingual chalk art and other art to encourage the use of the newly open streets, to a learn-to-ride a bike program for kids, to community gardens that help feed families in need, and so much more; creativity and kindness have been flowing throughout Denver due to these passionate residents. The projects received overwhelmingly positive responses, and grantees themselves indicated positive changes in behavior and environments, as well as their capacity and confidence.

53 Application Received

30 Projects Funded

Approximately $12,000 Disbursed

Reached approximately 253 partners in total and over 7800 people

TESTIMONY - “Vecinos Unidos motivated the community to eat healthy by planting their own vegetables and come together to work in the garden and watch it grow. Everyone is always happy and proud each Wednesday when we meet. We can see it in our faces. I feel so proud when I am in Cole now. I feel so good and happy when I see the plants grow. The plants are so happy and they make me happy. The first person we shared Kale we grew was Mrs. Sandy who let us plant the garden. This made me very happy for her to be the first one to eat what we grew.”

TESTIMONY - "It was so cool to see bilingual stuff here in Stapleton! I loved the mini Spanish/English Lessons"

TESTIMONY - “Hundreds of bus stops have been captured and documented alongside the support of this micro-grant. The purpose behind this ongoing project is to highlight the many gaps and opportunities facing transit users related to comfort, safety, and dignity of bus stops in the city of Denver. The project is also meant to be a resource for the City of Denver and partnership organizations/community leaders.”

TESTIMONY - “I've had a number of notable interactions throughout the first month of this project. As I've been creating chalk art in various locations, people have stopped to ask me about it. On multiple occasions individuals have said something along the lines of "love the art and love the message". These interactions have been brief; but, meaningful all the same."

Lessons Learned

COVID-19 has been a challenge that Denver residents are ready to tackle. They are strengthening community bonds through physical activity. Our CALC team is honored to be a conduit in which people find their voice, movement, and creativity. The community leadership in these projects is the primary reason for the program's success. It has been beautiful and inspiring to see community leaders thoughtfully and enthusiastically work to build better people and communities in an equitable and inclusive process.

While seeing great successes in the micro-grant, we know that much larger infrastructure investments are still needed (just check out DOTI's current transportation projects list). We hope this micro-grant will inform future larger infrastructure projects that can improve safety, mobility, and connectivity for residents in Denver for the long-term.

To build on our successes of this micro-grant, our team is considering options for our FY21 grant funds including a possible winter micro-grant. Make sure to follow us on Instagram and/or Facebook, where we are spotlighting a different micro-grant project every week!

TESTIMONY - “This project allowed board members of our organization to connect with many community members with whom we had had no prior contact. We met several lifelong Valverde residents and a handful of people who had recently moved back to the neighborhood after inheriting a home from a family member. . . As a result, the neighbors on this block of Bryant street are talking to each other more and have assisted with other neighborhood initiatives. As someone who commutes to work by bike, the uphill ride at the end of the day has been greatly enhanced by seeing these words of encouragement cheering me on.”

TESTIMONY - “What stands out the most are: 1) how excited, attentive and cooperative our children were along the rides. . . . 2) Everyone enjoyed the stops and storytelling about specific Montbello locations; especially on the hill taking in a full view of the Rocky Mountains and learning that Montbello stands for Beautiful Mountains. 3) At the Recreation Center, everyone was excited to learn about the coming Obstacle Course and can't wait to practice on it along with participating in more Montbello Walks Community Bike Rides.” But most importantly, a guest participant from a prominent Denver area; 10 year old was frightened while riding on the Montbello Safe Street Design and expressed the differences: "It scared me because the cars were driving too fast, honking at us and the street is not being used the way our street is used."

TESTIMONY - “It was largely successful in that more users felt comfortable out on the Shared Street sections of Byron and Vrain. As the paint faded and public health anxieties waned, car traffic/idling/loitering increased and created a less hospitable environment for pedestrians. Additional hard infrastructure would have been needed to effectively enforce our "soft" intervention, over time.”

368 views0 comments


bottom of page