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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

YMCA day camp fills summer with service activities and fun

Thursday, June 15, 2006

(Photo)
Brooke Partridge, 13, and Elex Elsey, 12, part of the YMCA's Counselors in Training program, play checkers and visit with Miner Nursing Center residents.
SIKESTON -- Alex Elsey gave up his afternoon of swimming to visit residents at the Miner Nursing Center. But he didn't care.

"I get kind of tired of swimming," the 12-year-old said while playing checkers with one of the facility's residents. A volunteer and another youth from the YMCA's Counselors-in-Training day camp sat at the table with him and the room around him was buzzing with the chatter of youth and residents who were also putting together puzzles and playing bingo.

Although their activities will vary, the visits are something the YMCA and nursing center hope will become a weekly tradition. "As of now, we plan to come here every week, plus take on other events as they come along," said Matt Knickman, CIT coordinator.

The YMCA day camp began the first week of June and has attracted about 100 each week between the day camp for incoming kindergartners through fifth graders and the CITs, who are entering sixth through eighth grades, said Chris Hodgkiss, program director at the YMCA in Sikeston. And attendance will grow.

"The enrollment normally does jump up in July for the simple fact that summer school is over," Hodgkiss said.

Day camp for the younger children runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Between arts and crafts, guest speakers, music, sports, games and weekly field trips, they are kept quite busy, Hodgkiss said.

The youth in the CIT program are welcome all day, but have structured activities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., he added. CITs participate in the fun and games, but learn some other lessons along they way. "They do a lot of leadership stuff," Hodgkiss said. "Things teaching responsibility and giving back to the community."

CITs are pretty busy. "They assist the younger ones in lots of ways," said Cassandra Limbaugh, day camp director. For instance, they will help the younger campers with lunch then clean up.

"We put a lot on their shoulders, but not any more than they can handle," Limbaugh said. "If you treat them with respect, you're going to get it back from them."

Knickman said the weekly visits to the nursing home help youth see how others live and teaches responsibility. "It helps mold them into more well-

rounded kids," he said.

Monday was the first visit, and Knickman viewed it as a success. "They said they really liked just being able to sit there and talk to someone who would really listen, " he said. "They were happy they got to have an impact on somebody's life for the day -- they realized they were doing a good thing."

The nursing home was happy to have visitors. "I think its wonderful that they can give of themselves to share their time and talents with our residents," said Mary Martin, activity director at the nursing center. "(The residents) look forward to the children -- they just love the youth."

Thirteen-year-old Brooke Partridge said she enjoyed the visit. After attending the day camp for many years, she prefers being a CIT. "I think its a lot more fun," she said. "We get to do different stuff and it makes us feel more responsible."

Elsey, also a Boy Scout, said the volunteering sometimes overlaps. After looking forward to being a CIT for years, it is what he expected. "It's been a lot of fun," he said.

Although some activities, like swimming, remain the same from week to week, others depend on the theme of the week, Limbaugh said. "All of our themes pretty much go around with what field trips that we have planned for that particular week," she noted.

For instance, the first week's theme was "Having a Ball," and the campers went bowling in Charleston. During "Slide into Fun" week, they will visit a waterpark.

Day camp comes at a cost -- kindergarten through sixth grades cost $60 a week for members and $70 for non-members while the CIT program is $35 for members and $45 for non-members -- but its worth the cost.

"You have more interaction with children and there's a lot more activities you do (than if you were at home)," Limbaugh said. Additionally, the campers get to interact with youth of all different ages and meet new friends -- like one camper who comes all the way from Dexter.

The summer routine helps kids stay focused for school. "Sometimes when kids are just at home, its really hard to get back in the school scene," she said. "This is still kind of a school setting."