Summer Playground Promotes Healthy Lifestyles

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By Kristen Gloss

It is often hard to think of enough to fill the summer days with engaging activities for children. Summer Playground, the Milford Parks and Recreation program, is the place for children entering first grade through sixth grade who do not want to stay at home or at their grandparents the whole season.

This program takes place for 5 weeks during the summer at Mispillion Elementary School, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m to 2:30 p.m.  Campers have various activities like board games, indoor bowling, arts and crafts and outdoor games to keep them active.  The program, which began in the 1960’s, aims to keep students moving as part of the healthy lifestyle initiative.

“It gives them recreational skills, so they don’t just go home and watch tv. They go outside and play with friends instead,” said Recreation Superintendent Mary Betts.

Despite its base location in Mispillion’s gym, cafeteria and playground, the students often go to other locations such as Slaughter Beach, the movie theater and local museums.  Olivia Jester, Wheeling Jesuit University sophomore, said one of her favorite things about the camp is that it is “one job where you’re not here all day; You actually go places.”

Students can gain community and cultural appreciation through these field trips.  They also work on expanding friendships, social skills and activity levels.

“It’s nice to see those who are here all five weeks learn a new skill the first week and develop it over their time here,” commented Betts. “It makes them feel good about themselves.”

The campers learn life skills like listening and knowing how to interact with people. They learn from their interactive activities such as juggling, which teaches them never to give up.

“Many of the children come back every year,” said Jester. The program creates a familial environment that promotes the growth of everyone involved, not just the children.  Now a counselor, Tara Holstein, has attended the camp since she was little, progressing from a camper to a volunteer to her position now.

“It’s a close environment,” said Jester. “People grow up in the system.”

People often joke to Jester that she came with the camp after her 8 years of involvement.  Even though Jester has been with the program for so long, she comments, “It’s a new thing every day.”

“At the end of the day, seeing their faces when they say goodbye,” said Betts, “you can tell they had a wonderful day seeing their friends and smiling.”

There are still openings for the last three weeks. To see the Summer Playground schedule, view it from the City of Milford link: http://www.cityofmilford.com/index.aspx?nid=156

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