ELYRIA — Given the choice between hanging on her street with friends and learning new and exciting things at summer camp, 12-year-old Danielle Marsh said she would pick summer camp every time.
“I’m a sporty girl,” Danielle said. “I like to run and jump around. Plus, I get to meet new friends and there are more activities here.”
On Monday afternoon, Danielle was one of many kids who took part in the city’s Reach and Rise Discovery Camp, which is giving 80 Elyria youngsters the opportunity to learn and play for a week without a charge to parents.
This week’s camp is NASA-focused, with kids learning the science behind rocketry mixed with time to play and swim. It’s the first in a series of summer camps the city is hosting.
Mayor Holly Brinda, who said she believes kids should have constructive and creative outlets in the summer, came up with the idea for the camps.
In addition to the city and Elyria Schools, which is providing lunch through its federal food program, programming and support are also being provided by the Lorain County Urban League, Elyria Chapter of the NAACP, Girl Scouts of America, Elyria YWCA, Lorain County Metro Parks and Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services. The camps are being financed with more than $60,000 in donations from 3M Corp., BASF, Republic Services, K.E. McCartney & Associates, Environmental Rate Consultants, NASA, Elyria Charities, Nordson Corporation Foundation and the Nord Family Foundation.
But even with the support and backing of so many, the only way to gauge the project’s success would be in the smiles of some of the city’s youngest residents.
After weeks of preparation, Annette Solet, the city’s recreation supervisor, said she arrived shortly after 8 a.m. at the South Park Recreation Center, where this week’s camp is held, to see if those who seemed excited when they signed up would actually walk through the doors.
Within 15 minutes, she got her answer: Kids began showing up for registration and breakfast.
By 8:45 a.m. the kids and counselors were on buses for a short ride to North Pool for swim lessons.
“I would say so far, so good,” Solet said, as kids ran from their outside play time on the playground equipment back to their small groups for the last session of rocketry lessons. “We have been going non-stop all day, and the kids seem to be having a great time.”
In the morning, kids learned how to make small rockets with paper, drinking straws and balloons. It was the perfect activity for 10-year-old Cassidy Miller, who attends Crestwood Elementary School.
“I thought the NASA Rocket camp would be cool, and it is,” she said. “I learned that depending on how much force you use, the farther the rocket will go.”
Miller said when she is not at camp she imagines she will sit home and read books. She prefers camp, she said with a smile.
Subsequent programs will focus on environmental science, sports and healthy living, music and art and basketball. All but one of the camps have a waiting list.
The only camp where spots are available is the motivational leadership basketball camp geared toward teenage boys between the ages 13 and 17.
The camp can take up to 80 boys and fewer than half of the slots have been filled, Solet said.
“This is our first year, and we are learning what is popular among the residents,” she said. “Overall, I would say the response from residents has been great. They want to know why we haven’t done something like this before for the kids.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or email@example.com.