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Not (just) all fun and games

Brian Garner
July 2, 2014

The News & Reporter

Some summer camps are little more than daily day-cares where parents drop campers off in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. The kids have spent all day on the playground or watching movies inside, but they really haven't experienced all that summer camp can be.

That's not the case at the City of Chester's Parks & Rec Summer Camp.

While there is a certain amount of playground time, that's not all that's happening at this Summer Camp.

Parks & Rec Program Coordinator Kim Graham said the City of Chester's Summer Camp has taken advantage of associations with several groups in the city, such as 4-H, Junior Achievement (Graham is a JA volunteer instructor) and the Chester County Library. Campers have received the benefit of learning experiences conducted through 4-H, JA and the county library system's summer reading program.

“Junior Achievement has helped us with the camp and they have been awesome. We've been talking about government and the community,” Graham said.

“4-H has also done an incredible job helping us with camp, too. They have guided the kids to learn more about the environment, how they can take care of their own little part of it in the community and how to become more independent learners.”

A total of 57 campers are taking advantage of this year's summer camp, and unfortunately, Parks and Rec are not accepting any additional campers; in fact there is a waiting list already. Camp runs from June 9 through August 8.

Graham said the campers range in ages K5 through 13-years-old. Groups are split into four age-appropriate groups, Graham said.

Each week of camp has a specific theme that all activities are centered around. For example, this week is “God Bless America." Previous themes are “Blast Off into Summer," “Trinkets and Treasures” and “Let's Make Music."

Graham said parents who bring their kids to the camp can be sure the kids are with an age-appropriate group, and are receiving good supervision.

“In fact every counselor we have here is connected to education in some way. Camp Director Sierra Hughes has a masters in school counseling and works as an elementary school counselor. Two college students are also counselors, one is a psychology major and the other is majoring in art education.

“We also have Gene McCaskill, who recently graduated and was a high school football standout, and we have my son, Tommy Sanders, who ha been a quarterback for four years and he's going to going into an educational field. We have Shane Lucky, who is a policeman's daughter and we have Haley Giles. Her mother is at Chester Middle School. And our administrative assistant, Shelly Watts, has an associate's degree in early childhood education,” Graham said. Other counselors are Paris Feaster, Sallie Owens, Kwmane Wilmore, Shakita Davis and Marquita Killian.

Another parental concern Graham says is asked is what sort of activities will the campers experience.

Graham said the activities are mostly hands-on and utilize a lot of the City of Chester's resources.

“During that first week of Blast Off into Summer, City Administrator Sandi Worthy visited, Mayor Wanda Stringfellow also visited. We expect councilmembers Annie Reid and King Thompson to visit our camp, too. We had a community police officer present a program one day, and a firefighter from the City of Chester Fire Department also paid a visit. We are planning for the City's victim's advocate to present a program on “Stranger Danger” during the camp also,” Graham said.

Graham believes the summer camp should be about more than just summer camp-style activities. The camp staff strives to do more than just provide activities, they use the details of current events, like the recent train accident in Chester and the arrests of two students for a murder in Myrtle Beach, as a way to provide object lessons about making the right choices.

“We want the camp to be fun and recreational, but we do want it to impact the lives of the kids longer than just the length of a summer camp. We want them to be ready to go into a school year or back into their community and make better choices,” she said.

The Parks and Rec Department will hold a parent resource workshop on Wednesday, July 9 at the Rec Building from 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. Refreshments will be served and summer campers will be at the Wylie Park with camp counselors during the session. If planning to attend the workshop, please RSVP at 803-581-7429 by Monday, July 7.

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