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'It's Summer Recess Every Day'

West Deptford's summer rec program aims to keep kids active and having fun all summer.

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.

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Sign-ups for the summer recreation program close Friday.

Tim Dixon June 22, 2011 at 04:51 PM
The Recreation program started well before the "80s. I can remember as a elementary school kid in the 70s going to the High School on summer days to play wiffle ball and Bombardment (aka dodgeball, remember when you could play that) with my brother, cousins and a host of regulars. There was ping pong, knok hockey and arts and crafts in the health rooms and the teens would come in later in the afternoon for basketball. The head councilor was Skip and his last name escapes me, but I also remember some of the old WDHS PE staff like Roy Pickens and Joe McGraff making appearances. It was a different time, when as a very young kid I would walk down there from the Oakview section of town, sometimes alone. I'd never let my kids do that now. My brother and I later spent a few summers in the '80s as councilors. I refer to that time as my 2 seasons of professional wiffleball. There was no other place like it. It was another reason why West Deptford was a wonderful place to grow up.
Mary Lebeau June 22, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Tim's right. I remember going to rec as an elementary kid, and I graduated WDHS in the late 70's. I remember cartooning class....I still can draw Sylvester the Cat the way I was taught at summer rec. And it was free then, too!

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