It all started with some hula-hoops and basketballs in the back of a township pickup truck.
It was back in the ‘80s, and then-West Deptford recreation director Bob Oldt would venture out into the neighborhoods, rolling into Greenfields or Verga or Colonial Manor for a few hours each day to get kids engaged in activities during the summer.
Things look a bit different now, with a small army of college-age counselors managing a few hundred kids at the middle school in everything from organized sports camps to the flavor of the day, whether Wiffle ball or floor hockey or dodgeball.
“It’s summer recess every day,” recreation director Greg Ley said.
Though the general recreation program–that flavor of the day–is the biggest part, there are sports clinics on baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse and more, as well as time in computer labs and field trips, all designed to keep kids active and interested, as well as building friendships for the long-term.
“We try to make everyone feel comfortable,” Ley said.
It’s not just the kids who want to be out there, either. The counselors, from first-years to veterans who have been there through three or four years of college, have usually been through the rec program as kids, and some are education majors.
“We know they want to be there,” Committeewoman Donna Szymborski said.
Keeping the counselors through all four years is something important, as they can develop a relationship with the kids in the program–something that goes back to making the kids and their parents comfortable.
“They get to know the kids–that’s important,” Szymborski said, and added that as a parent, she feels better seeing the same faces as counselors, since those relationships have already been established.
Besides the daily offerings and trips to the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Zoo and Adventure Aquarium, the rec program also offers swimming–and perhaps more importantly, watersliding–at RiverWinds, skating at the Deptford Skate Center, bowling at the Brunswick Zone in Deptford and a cookout to close the program on Aug. 5.
Sign-ups for the summer recreation program close Friday.