Spring is in the Air: But Summer Camps Are Approaching Fast
It’s only April and flowers are just beginning to bloom and the first of the year’s leaves are appearing in the trees.
And it won’t be long before summer’s here, schools out and millions of American children will be spending carefree days playing in their yards, swimming in pools, going on family vacations and going to summer camp.
But for thousands of children in places such as War, West Virginia, Beattyville, Kentucky, Johnson City, Tennessee, and Cleveland and Gainesville, Georgia, the days are anything but carefree.
When school is out, these children aren’t guaranteed a nutritious breakfast and lunch like they get at school – they’re lucky if there’s some peanut butter, jelly and a loaf of bread in the house. The days can be filled with hunger and boredom.
But in these communities, thanks to supporters of Americans Helping Americans® there will hundreds of children who will be able to spend a week at a summer camp where they be sure of getting nutritious meals and snacks throughout the day, participate in some educational activities so they don’t forget in the summer what they learned in school – but, perhaps most importantly – simply have fun being a kid with, for a time at least, without a worry in the world.
Big Creek People in Action “Super WHY” Literacy Camps
In War, Big Creek People in Action (BCPIA) operates “Super WHY” literacy camps co-sponsored with the West Virginia Public Broadcasting System based on the educational PBS kids’ show “Super WHY”. In 2015, Americans Helping Americans® financially supported four one-week camps in four different communities in McDowell County, serving a total of 57 different children, according to BCPIA co-executive director Marsha Timpson.
For those unfamiliar with the TV program, each character in the show has their own special reading powers: Alpha Pig has alphabet power; Princess Presto has spelling power; Wonder Red has word power; and Super Why has the power to read – putting together all the other powers to create sentences.
At the camps, children watch one episode daily with each day focusing on a specific “Super Reader” and their superpower. Activities, crafts and fun learning games are done that day that each relate to the character of the day.
“On Thursday, toward the end of the camp, I would let each child take a turn telling the group who their favorite super reader was and pick one favorite activity or game from the whole week of activities,” said Marsha. “On Friday, after watching the episode, the children chose which super reader they would transform into and the activities, crafts and games varied because they were chosen by the children from their favorites of that week’s camp.”
And then, the highlight of many of the camp, “One of the four characters also makes an appearance on Fridays.”
Among the 57 children who attended BCPIA’s) four summer reading and literacy camps last summer, a four year-old little boy named R.J. stands out.
R.J. was among the children who attended the first week of camp.
“He was so excited and had such a thirst for knowledge that you can’t help but notice how eager he is to learn,” said Marsha. “His participation was outstanding on every activity and his mom said he was always rushing her out the door to make sure he was not going to be late and miss anything going on.”
R.J. is a bright young man who knew most of his alphabet letters, but was so excited to be learning the sounds that went with each of the ten specific letters they worked on that week, said Marsha.
“His mother told me how he would go home every day and practice the sounds and activities we had done that day and explain everything to the family in detail,” she said.
On the last day of camp, R.J. heard Marsha tell his mom the locations of the three camps to follow to which “with a huge smile on his face, and in his eyes, he informed his mother that he would be attending all of the reading camps until they were finished for the year.”
She told him that the others were too far away, but assured him that he would be able to come back next year.
“He let her know that he REALLY wanted to go, no matter how far they to go to get there,” Marsha said.
But, it was not to be. R.J. understood that if his mother had taken him to the other camps, she would not have been able to make it to work on time.
“Now, every time I see R.J. out at the grocery store or convenience store where his mom works, he is sure to ask me I am still sure that we will have a Super Why camp next year,” Marsha said. “Then he tells me how sorry he is that he did not make it to the other three camps of this year.
“Then I get a big ‘Bear Hug’ and he tells me he can’t wait until camp next year.”