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The Military Children 2024 World Expo digital billboard in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City (staff photo by Savannah Taffe)

The Military Children World Expo 2024 is coming to Pentagon City to honor and celebrate the resilience of military children.

The event — scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at the Pentagon City mall (1100 S. Hayes Street) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — is free to the public and promises a lineup of family-friendly activities, such as face painting, art and sculpture exhibitions, musical performances, contests, workshops and scavenger hunts, per the expo’s website.

The theme of the event, hosted by the D.C.-based nonprofit Military Six Children’s Foundation, is “Resilience — The Unstoppable Power,” a reference to the challenges faced by children of military members.

The expo’s website highlights the roughly 1.7 million military children across all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Nearly half of these children are dependents of active-duty service members, with the remainder being children of guard or reserve units. Children of veterans or individuals over 18 are not included in the figure.

Notably, about a third of military children are under five.

“The Expo on April 27 will be a testament to their shared experiences and a celebration of their collective identity. It’s a place where stories of courage and adaptation are shared, where every handshake and smile is a testament to their shared journey,” per the website.

The United States Marine Band, which performs for the President and Marine Corps, will perform on the main stage starting at 1 p.m., followed by a panel discussion of advocates with the military community at 2 p.m.

Additionally, the expo will function as a resource for military families, offering workshops focused on caregiving and advocating for their children during transitions to new schools, among others.

Beyond spotlighting the unique challenges military children face, the expo also celebrates National Military Caregivers month and Military Appreciation month, both recognized in May.

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Kids at Sky Zone (photo via Sky Zone/Facebook)

Alexandria might not be getting a pro sports arena, but Arlington and Alexandria might be getting another “premier indoor active entertainment destination.”

Specifically: Sky Zone, a kid-friendly trampoline park with foam pits, climbing walls, slides, zip lines, basketball, dodgeball and other activities.

The company announced yesterday that a group of local investors has bought the franchise rights for one location apiece in Arlington and Alexandria. A location has not yet been chosen and might be a bit tricky to find considering the space required and Arlington’s lack of it — at affordable rental rates, at least.

“The typical Sky Zone location has an average 32,000 sq-ft footprint, and Sky Zone owns, operates, and franchises over 270 parks across the U.S., aiming for 300 by the end of year, including several in DC area including Springfield, Gaithersburg, and Bowie,” a PR rep noted to ARLnow.

A timeline for an opening has also not yet been set.

More, below, from a press release.

Sky Zone, the premier indoor active entertainment destination, today announced its plans to bring three new parks to the greater Washington D.C. area through its strategic franchise development efforts.

Two of the locations, set to open in Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia, will be operated by a group of investors consisting of Adebara Lawrence, Akintunde Ola, John Odilli and Olatokunboh Abereoje.

Complementing this expansion, the third park, scheduled to open its doors in Frederick, Maryland later in the year, will be overseen by local entrepreneurs Abi and Betty Ayodeji. Drawing from their extensive backgrounds in information technology and real estate, the first-time Sky Zone franchisees look forward to leveraging their unique skillsets as the newest home for play in the Frederick community.

“After researching various franchise options, investing in Sky Zone was an easy decision,” said Abi and Betty Ayodeji, Sky Zone franchisees. “We were not only impressed by the company’s demonstrated track record of profitability but also by their commitment to fostering robust community relationships and providing comprehensive support to franchisees.”

Mike Revak, President of Sky Zone Franchise Group, shared his enthusiasm for the brand’s expansion in the DMV area, stating, “As we approach the milestone of our 300th park, we’re so grateful to be working alongside such talented entrepreneurs like those of our upcoming D.C. metro locations. With the help of our franchise owners, we look forward to bringing the joy of Sky Zone to many more families across the U.S.”

Entrepreneurs interested in joining the rapid growth at Sky Zone are encouraged to learn more about the brand and its offerings, at skyzone.com.

About Sky Zone:
Sky Zone, the premier leader in indoor active entertainment in the United States, owns, operates and franchises over 270 parks. Founded in 2004 as Sky Zone Trampoline Park, the brand has evolved from being the first of its kind to now being the top destination for active play offering its 500,000+ members over 60 smile-inducing attractions. The brand encourages families to make memories and Play Every Day through birthdays, team gatherings and after-school activities each year. Sky Zone caters to kids under 12 through thoughtful programming in a clean and safe environment. Sky Zone has been recognized as a top franchise organization in both Franchise Times’ Top 400 and Fast & Serious lists, as well as Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500. For more information about Sky Zone and to find your local park, visit skyzone.com or follow on socials at @skyzone.

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File photo

Two women from D.C. are facing charges after police say they robbed a store in Ballston while pushing a child in a baby stroller.

The alleged crime happened around 11 p.m. Thursday night on the 4200 block of Fairfax Drive, across from the Metro. A 7-Eleven is the only store on that block that appears to keep late night hours.

Police say the women threatened a store employee and threw an item at them before fleeing into the Ballston Metro station. They were subsequently detained in Courthouse.

More, below, from Friday’s Arlington County Police Department crime report.

ROBBERY, 2024-02080255, 4200 block of Fairfax Drive. At approximately 11:06 p.m. on February 8, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery by force. Upon arrival, it was determined the two female suspects entered the business while pushing a child in a baby stroller, allegedly concealed merchandise and exited the store without payment. An employee called police, during which one suspect made threatening statements before throwing an unknown item at them. The suspects then fled on foot into the Ballston Metro. Responding officers canvassed the area for the suspects who were subsequently located in the Courthouse Metro and taken into custody. [Suspect 1], 28, of Washington D.C. was arrested and charged with Petit Larceny and Contributing to the Delinquency of Minor. She was released on a summons. [Suspect 2], 24 of, Washington D.C. was arrested and charged with Robbery and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. She was held without bond.

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Toys ‘R’ Us tour (courtesy photo)

Toys ‘R’ Us and its long-necked mascot are on an RV tour of the East Coast, with an upcoming stop in Arlington.

The long-time children’s retailer declared bankruptcy in 2017 and, a year later, closed all of its U.S. stores. In recent years, however, it has been making a comeback, with stores located within Macy’s locations — including the Macy’s in Pentagon City.

The comeback is continuing with a multi-state tour featuring Geoffrey the Giraffe. Geoffrey’s RV is scheduled to arrive in Arlington this coming Monday for a noon event in Pentagon City, featuring giveaways and activities.

“Geoffrey’s Tour Across America is coming to Fashion Centre at Pentagon City on Monday, July 24th at 12pm ET where Geoffrey the Giraffe will host a play celebration for families at the Toys ‘R’ Us shop at Macy’s Pentagon City store,” said a description of the event. “The festivities will kick-off outside Macy’s store entrance at the new Geoffrey Mobile, a 38-foot custom RV which is on a multi-city tour, making stops at select Toys ‘R’ Us at Macy’s stores from NYC to Florida.”

“The first 50 kids to arrive at the Geoffrey Mobile will receive a free Geoffrey plush,” the event description said. “All attendees will receive a paper crown, a toy tambourine and will join Geoffrey the Giraffe in his ‘Parade of Play’ march from the Geoffrey Mobile into the Toys ‘R’ Us inside of Macy’s. The fun will continue in-store from 12pm – 2pm with play stations and family friendly activities including Pokémon Trade & Play activity packs, Discovery Excavation Kits, Block building, Bluey printable for coloring, a Meet & Greet with Geoffrey and more!”

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Volunteers serve Arlington Kabob’s packaged meals at Children’s Inn (courtesy Susan Clementi)

Earlier this month, Arlington Kabob cooked up hot dinners for a cause.

About two weeks ago, the restaurant donated 75 individually packaged meals to the Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health. The nonprofit provides housing and programming to young people with rare diseases being researched and treated at the NIH campus in Bethesda.

Arlington Kabob owner Susan Clementi says she was approached about a meal donation by longtime customer Gindy Feeser, who regularly serves dinners at the Children’s Inn with her coworkers.

Clementi said she worked with Feeser and her team at General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) in Falls Church to offer a “moment of kindness” to kids living at the hospital, who lack normalcy in their day-to-day lives.

“One of my personal spiritual values is to stay involved and have awareness for my community,” Clementi said. “We at Arlington Kabob are always eager to support any great cause… and partner with [the restaurant’s dedicated customers] to make a small difference.”

Together, for the GDIT team’s June dinner contribution, Clementi provided the kabobs and Feeser provided the service.

“I think most of us know by now how lucky we are to have a gem like Arlington Kabob in our neighborhood,” Feeser said in a recent post that received considerable attention on the social media platform Nextdoor.

She said delivering a car full of kabobs to Bethesda was “a mouth-watering experience.”

“Once delivered, they were gone in minutes,” Feeser said in her post, which garnered nearly 530 reactions. “Bellies and hearts, full.”

Arlington Kabob is located at 5046 Langston Blvd in the Halls Hill/High View Park neighborhood and is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The restaurant was founded by Clementi a decade ago and, as reported earlier this year, is noted for its partnerships with local schools on various fundraising initiatives.

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A police officer plays a game of pickup basketball with local kids in 2018 (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) A new youth program could divert youth who commit misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies from the juvenile legal system.

Arlington police will be able to refer offending juveniles to local programs aimed at holding youth accountable outside of the court system, according to a press release from the Center for Youth and Family Advocacy (CYFA).

“Community-based diversion is critical to community policing because it recognizes young people’s capacity for change,” the organization said in a statement. “Community-based diversion also reduces the possibility of collateral consequences arising from legal system involvement, which can have lasting, and often unexpected, effects on a youth throughout their life.”

CYFA works Arlington County’s juvenile court services unit to provide a variety of youth-led programs, through which kids who acknowledge wrongdoing can make amends and rejoin their communities.

It offers programs such as “Youth Peer Court,” in which trained teens occupy the roles of prosecutor and defense attorney, judge and jury and help develop a plan the juvenile follows to repair the harm he or she committed.

Now, police will be able to refer kids to that program and another, in which kids learn how to facilitate conversations about issues impacting teens by those harmed and those doing the harm.

The nonprofit says its new partnership with ACPD, in the works since 2019, is a “radical change” in how Arlington County addresses delinquent behavior in kids and prevents them from being involved in the formal juvenile legal system.

Until recently, for instance, police officers were in Arlington Public Schools. The intent was to maintain school safety and provide mentorship, though there were community concerns that the school presence resulted in racial disparities in juvenile arrests.

For the police department, the CYFA partnership is a new way to stay involved in the lives of children without involving the full weight of the courts.

“ACPD recognizes that using restorative justice programs for particular incidents involving youth provides an opportunity to divert youth from the criminal justice system while still holding them accountable for their actions and providing persons who have been harmed an opportunity to be actively involved in the resolution of their case,” department spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.

The two organizations will work together to educate locals about how to also utilize these two programs when police are not involved, CYFA says.

The nonprofit says the partnership advances the aims of the county’s Police Practices Group, which suggested more than 100 ways to reform policing in Arlington.

“It creates space to reframe police response from adversarial to solution-focused and provides an opportunity to shift cultural and societal reliance on police resources,” CYFA said.

In a Facebook post, the organization provided a “shoutout” to several officers within ACPD for their work to stand up the program, as well as to Chief Andy Penn and Deputy Chief Wayne Vincent “for their tremendous work on strategic planning.”

The organization additionally thanked County Manager Mark Schwartz and the Arlington County Board for supporting its efforts.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A child plays in a sprayground at Virginia Highlands Park (file photo)

Sprayground season has finally arrived in Arlington.

Families will be able to put the county’s spraygrounds to use starting this Friday — the beginning of Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start to consistent summer weather.

These outdoor spaces, where children can play for free in water during hot summer months, are located throughout the county:

Spraygrounds

Interactive Water Features

“Spraygrounds at Drew Park, Hayes Park, Lyon Village Park and Virginia Highlands Park will be open on Friday, May 26,” Dept. of Parks and Recreation Jerry Solomon told ARLnow. “Spraygrounds at Mosaic and Penrose Parks will be undergoing some final system adjustments and open on Saturday, May 27.”

Weekly hours vary by location and are listed online.

Although the parks are open to everyone, the parks department requires appropriate swimwear and adult supervision, as no life guards will be present.

The spraygrounds are scheduled to remain open through Labor Day weekend.

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Virginia State Capitol in Richmond (via Wikimedia Commons)

America’s oldest continuous law-making body, the Virginia General Assembly, is now in session, and local lawmakers have introduced a slew of new legislation.

With split control of the General Assembly, Republicans of the House of Delegates and Democrats of the Senate, it’s unclear how many bills introduced by Arlington’s all-Democratic representation will pass.

Still, some priorities appear to have a measure of bipartisan support, including SB 1096 (from Sen. Adam Ebbin) permitting marriage between two people regardless of sex while protecting the right of religious clergy to decline presiding over same-sex marriages.

Here are some of the bills that were pre-filed ahead of this session.

Arlingtonians could get relief from noisy cars and predatory towing.

  • SB 1085 (Ebbin): Prohibits the sale and use of aftermarket mufflers. This follows up on a change in law last year reversing a 2021 law that prevented officers from pulling over drivers just for having an excessively loud exhaust system. The original law was intended to reduce pretextual traffic stops and racial disparities but might have contributed to an uptick in noise complaints those living along highways and busy roads.
  • HB 2062 (Del. Alfonso Lopez) and SB 790 (Sen. Barbara Favola): Reprises a failed 2022 bill that would make violations of existing towing law subject to the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. Under this act, predatory towing could receive heftier civil penalties than the $150 fine currently codified. Tackling predatory towing was a 2023 Arlington County Board legislative priority.

In addition to Ebbin’s same-sex marriage bill, a few others pertain to family life, health and privacy.

  • SB 1324 (Ebbin): Gives parents who make less than $100,000 a $500 child tax credit for 2023-2027.
  • SB 852 (Favola): Protects menstrual data stored on computers, computer networks or other devices — like phone period tracking applications — from being subject to search warrants. This likely responds to a Republican bill to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks except in the case of rape or incest or if the pregnancy endangers the life or “major bodily functions” of the mother.
  • HB 1879 (Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker): Requires each managed care health insurance plan licensee to provide a sufficient number and mix of services, specialists and practice sites to meet mental health care needs 24/7.

A number of gun control bills would curtail who can own a gun and who can assume possession of those owned by people who have committed a crime, while tackling the proliferation of “ghost guns.”

  • HB 1729 (Bennett-Parker) and SB 909 (Favola): Requires people to be at least 21 years old and to live under a different roof in order to accept guns from someone legally required to surrender them for being convicted of assaulting a family member or being under a protective order.
  • HB 1579 (Del. Rip Sullivan): Prevents people from buying or transporting firearms if they have two convictions in five years for operating a car or boat while drunk.
  • SB 1181 (Ebbin): Makes it a misdemeanor for anyone who is not a federal firearms importer, manufacturer or dealer to knowingly sell, offer to sell, transfer or purchase unfinished firearms that do not have serial numbers. These can be purchased online and used to build untraceable firearms, known as “ghost guns.”
  • SB 1192 (Ebbin): Prohibits certain semi-automatic guns — loaded or not — in any public right-of-way or publicly accessible natural area.

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Arlington police car (file photo)

A man allegedly exposed himself to four girls near Swanson Middle School in Westover.

Police are investigating the incident, which reportedly happened around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The girls told officers they heard a banging sound then saw an older man inside a residence exposing himself through the window.

From yesterday’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

INDECENT EXPOSURE (Late), 2022-12140164, 5800 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 3:43 p.m. on December 14, police made telephone contact with the reporting party regarding a late indecent exposure. The investigation indicates that at approximately 2:30 p.m., the four juvenile female victims were walking in the area when they heard banging and observed the male suspect in the window of a residence allegedly exposing himself. The suspect is described as an older, heavy-set, White male. The investigation is ongoing.

Around the same time on Wednesday, police say a 31-year-old Arlington man kicked and shattered an ART bus door along Columbia Pike. The man is also accused of kicking a police officer after his arrest.

More from ACPD:

ASSAULT ON POLICE, 2022-12140119, Columbia Pike at S. Dinwiddie Street. At approximately 2:15 p.m. on December 14, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that an Arlington Transit bus was slowing to a stop at this location when the suspect approached and allegedly kicked the door, causing the glass panel to shatter. Responding officers located the suspect and took him into custody. While conducting their investigation, the suspect twice kicked a police officer. Yohana Gebremeskel, 31, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Assault on Police, Destruction of Property and Public Intoxication. He was held without bond.

A woman pushing a child in a stroller was bloodied and brought to the hospital after being struck by a driver in North Arlington this morning.

The crash happened around 10:30 a.m. at the intersection of Military Road and Lorcom Lane.

“At approximately 10:25 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a crash with injuries involving a pedestrian,” Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Upon arrival, it was determined the pedestrian was pushing a stroller at the time of the crash. The pedestrian, an adult female, was transported to an area hospital with injuries considered non-life threatening. The child was not injured.”

The woman could be seen being helped to a waiting ambulance after the crash, her face covered in dried blood. The apparent driver and the striking sedan could be seen nearby. So far there’s no word as to what led to the crash nor whether any charges will be filed.

“The driver of the striking vehicle remained on scene,” said Savage. “The investigation is ongoing.”

The intersection, which is controlled by a four-way traffic light, is surrounded by homes and a pair of churches, on the northern edge of the Cherrydale neighborhood.

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Screenshot from video of a fight at a cafeteria in Arlington Public Schools (courtesy anonymous)

Over the last four days, fights involving kids and weapons broke out near Gunston and Thomas Jefferson middle schools, while Wakefield High School had multiple trash cans set on fire.

Those are the most recent incidents in what some parents — mostly to middle schoolers — say is a rash of fights, threats of violence and other concerning behaviors happening in the public school system.

Earlier this month, for example, a mother told the School Board her daughter at Gunston Middle School was attacked by other students.

“My daughter’s eye is messed up,” Shana Robertson told the Arlington School Board on March 10. “She was jumped by two boys and two girls, and nothing has been done.”

A parent, Shayna Robertson, speaks out about unsafe conditions in Arlington Public Schools (via APS)

ARLnow spoke to multiple parents who say these issues are happening across the school system. We also reviewed several videos of brawls on school grounds, or near them, recorded by students this year.

Arlington Public Schools confirms to ARLnow that the school system has, in fact, noticed an increase in the number of reported fights and incidents this school year.

“This rise in concerning behaviors follows the national trend that is not unique to Arlington, as students re-acclimate to being back in school and face increased stress and anxiety, as well as other mental health and social-emotional challenges due to COVID and the trauma students experienced as a result,” APS spokesman Andrew Robinson said.

The trend has prompted some parents to call for more disciplinary actions for students and a renewed conversation about whether to reinstall Arlington County Police Department School Resource Officers, who were removed over the summer out of concern for racial disparities in juvenile arrests.

Opinions on reinstalling SROs are mixed. Some say this would help keep students in line and some say they may help — but they will not address the root cause. Others say SROs would not only fail to address the root cause, but they would also needlessly drive up the number of arrests.

“This is happening across the country, even at schools with police officers,” says Symone Walker, a member of the Arlington branch of the NAACP’s education committee and a former ARLnow columnist. “You really have to start addressing the emotional needs, the physical needs, the academic needs. Of course, there’s stuff going on at homes where families are stressed. Parents are angry and the kids are soaking it all up — it’s a much deeper problem.”

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