Archive for Thursday, June 19, 2008

Camp keeps children active throughout day

June 19, 2008

Camp Eudora, the summer day program for children run by the Parks and Recreation Department, was something Department Director Tammy Hodges felt was owed to residents of Eudora.

"When I was hired, I wanted to come in and offer as many programs as we could and not just have people think we're only here for the sports," Hodges said. "We wanted to add the aspect of being able to help parents out."

The cost of the program is $85 a week and is staffed by seven teachers, four high school students and one college student.

Hodges and Rose Balluch, who runs the camp, had hoped for 20 children to enroll in the program. But on the first day of sign-ups, the program filled to its capacity of 50.

The campers range from those entering kindergarten to sixth grade. They take part in different activities throughout the week, including art projects, visits to the library, swimming every other day, athletics and field trips. They also learn about health and manners.

Balluch said one of the strengths of the program is that it keeps kids active, both physically and mentally.

"I would put my children in it," she said. "They're not just sitting in front of a TV; they're still interacting with kids their own age."

Grant Stewart, an 11-year-old camper in the program, said that's exactly what he would be doing if he weren't in the program - he would be bored at home watching television.

"I like this better than being at home because I get to see my friends," Stewart said.

Balluch also said the interaction between the campers is especially valuable for those entering kindergarten, as it improves their socialization skills.

"It helps them get into a routine and be around other kids," she said.

Dustin Young, whose 5-year-old daughter, Mary, attends the program, said that being with children her own age was one of the main reasons he switched her from day care to Camp Eudora.

Balluch attributes much of the program's success to finding trustworthy staff members.

"I really enjoy it," Epperson said. "All the kids are great, and it's really fun working with them and teaching them. It's a lot more fun than I thought it would be."

The first two field trips were a favorite of many of the kids, but especially 7-year-old Zax Flaherty, who attended his first Kansas City Royals game last Thursday.

"We had a lot of kids who had never been to a Royals game, so it's really cool to see the first-time experience," Balluch said.

In the first week, the group was brought down on the field at a T-Bones baseball game, and one of the players read a book to them.

Hodges would like to expand the program, but the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will not allow for the program to have a larger capacity based on the square footage of the main room where they spend most of their time.

Balluch said the regulations also would tighten up registration for the after-school program, which had 120 children enrolled.

Nonetheless, Hodges still is seeking ways to make the program available to more people, and she has been applying for grants to get funding for some of the children.

"We're really trying to get businesses to donate, because some people still can't afford the $85 a week," she said.

The department also is starting a scholarship program called the Little Tyke Scholarship Plan, and that applies to every program.

"Even if it's just $5 or $10, that still helps a kid get into basketball, a camp program or an after-school program," Hodges said.

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