Camp keeps kids active while school's out

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Tamara Jarvis, of McDonough, said she is thankful Henry County has provided a way for her two daughters to remain active this week, during one of the county's Spring Break Day Camps.

"They're not sitting in front of the TV," said Jarvis. "They're in activities, they're doing arts and crafts, they're playing games, talking with other kids and making friends. It's a positive environment."

The camp, which continues through Friday, is one of four sponsored by the Henry County Parks and Recreation Department, for children ages 5 to 12.

Jarvis' daughters, Ashley, 7, and Julie, 6, are among approximately 120 children taking part in programs in McDonough, Hampton, Locust Grove and Stockbridge, according to Tina Fuss, recreation specialist and one of the coordinators of the camps.

Tamara Jarvis said her girls, who are students at McDonough Elementary School, have been enthusiastic about going to camp each day. The camp they attend in McDonough began Monday.

"They're jumping in the morning, ready to go to camp, and it's not like they're getting ready for school," the mother said. "I'm not having to wake them up. They're waking up by themselves, and they're ready to go."

Youngsters in the program take field trips, and engage in team-building exercises, games, arts and crafts, according to Fuss, who also works at the McDonough camp.

Fuss said the day camp program, now in its sixth year in Henry, "just keeps growing and growing," and helps kids to remain active during their break from school.

"It just keeps them motivated," said Fuss. "It's a safe environment. On Wednesday we're going to Turner Field, and we're going to be doing a tour of the Braves' stadium. On Friday we're going out with a bang. We're going to have inflatables at Nash Farm, and we'll be having an Easter egg contest for the kids."

Fuss, 45, has participated in the county's camp program for two and a half years.

"It's all about that little 5-year-old that comes in on Monday morning, clinging to her mom and saying, ‘I don't want to go,'" said Fuss. "By Friday, she's hugging the supervisors and the counselors, crying and saying, ‘I don't want to leave.'"

Cheryl Whelchel, 37, has been a recreation specialist in the county for three years, and is coordinating the camp activities with Fuss. She said children and their parents reap the benefits of the camp.

"It gives the parents an assurance that they know that while they're having to work, their children are being taken care of with the best care they can get," Whelchel said. "They're active. We don't keep them indoors all day long. Some of these kids are experiencing things they wouldn't get to experience any other time, because all of our activities are included in our fees."

Whelchel added that kids in the camp are taught "how to cope socially, to learn to communicate and to settle differences."

Tuesday's camp activities took the kids to the Henry County Remote Control (RC) Club in McDonough, across from the Henry County Administration Building. Victor Echevarria, 66, the club's vice president, said he enjoyed the chance to pass along his love of flying to the kids.

"Children are our future, as we all know," he said. "We would like to see, hopefully, that there are a handful of aviators in the ... crowd. The Henry County RC Club's motto is, ‘Teach a kid to fly.' We want all youngsters to be exposed to some form of aviation or another, and this is a way of them ... trying it."

Mary-Ashley Shaw, 10, is in the fifth-grade at East Lake Elementary, and is a participant in the camp. She said she has enjoyed the games, arts and crafts and other activities the county has provided.

"What I'm most excited about so far is the field trips," said Shaw. "We're going fishing sometime this week."

Nine-year-old Kaitlyn Armenta, of McDonough, has attended several camps sponsored by Henry County in her young life, and said she has enjoyed the opportunity to meet new friends. Armenta, a fourth-grader at New Hope Elementary School, said a highlight for this week's Spring Break Day Camp will happen today at Turner Field.

"I've been to a Braves game before, but I'm really looking forward to touring that place," Armenta said.

Ten-year-old Kyle Alan Harris, a fifth-grader at Walnut Creek Elementary School in McDonough, said he enjoys the camp because it enables him to be around his peers. Like Armenta, today's scheduled baseball excursion was foremost on his mind Tuesday.

"I just got back from a [baseball] game on Monday, opening the season for the Braves," said Harris. "I'm just excited to go back to Turner Field. The Braves are No. 1."