Kids, officials detail success

September 13, 2012

Martinsville Bulletin

Large collages of photos arranged on both sides of the Rives Theater lobby told a story much better than words.

The photos show youngsters smiling and engaged in summer camp activities that ranged from ball games, climbing rock walls and swimming to drama lessons, learning about animals and holding a talent show.

“I’m in that one,” Krista Martin, 12, of Martinsville, said as she pointed to a picture in the far left-hand corner of one collage.

In the photo, Krista and a number of friends are playing in the sand on the beach at Fairystone State Park.

“I liked it very much,” Krista said of creative writing and art activities she did during the Youth Summer Camp Pilot Program.

On Wednesday, Harvest Foundation of the Piedmont held an event at Rives Theater to celebrate the program’s success.

The program was a community effort to help children attend summer enrichment camps and spend school vacation constructively. It was funded by the Harvest Foundation and implemented by the Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge, the Family YMCA and 56 other partners.

The program gave 180 local children learning opportunities they likely would not have had otherwise. Also, the initiative targeted the more than 70 percent of local school-aged youth in families that are at or below the poverty level.

“It may be a small program to us, but it is huge to me,” said Allyson Rothrock, executive director of the Harvest Foundation.

A $78,450 Harvest grant paid for registration, transportation and associated fees for the 180 youngsters aged 5 to 16 to attend the existing summer camps as well as enrichment camps held in various areas of Martinsville and Henry County, Rothrock said.

“It was our opportunity to invest in the future adults of our community,” said James McClain II, vice chairman of the Harvest Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Rothrock, McClain and several other speakers noted the pilot program was not due to a single organization but rather a cooperative effort from partners that included the Boys & Girls Club of the Blue Ridge, the Family YMCA, Virginia Museum of Natural History, Piedmont Arts Association, the Spencer-Penn Centre and a number of others.

“We wanted this investment in our children to be by all of us, putting our best foot forward for our kids,” Rothrock said.

The pilot program came about quickly, she said, and the grant was approved quietly. Community partners were secured, but most were not privy to the particulars so it would not be viewed as a Harvest-driven project.

“I had high hopes for this,” Rothrock said of the pilot program. She added that it met its goals of finding “the children most disenfranchised and those who don’t have opportunities, giving them those opportunities and getting them involved.”

“It has changed lives. Enrichment camps are very important and every child should have the opportunity to go to the best camp” where they can experience things that they may “never in their wildest dreams see,” she said.

Taylar Brown, 11, of Martinsville, said participants in the camp she attended at Albert Harris Elementary School “went on field trips, played games and mingled with” others.

But the most important lesson she learned was “to respect others and to treat others how you’d like to be treated,” Taylar said.

That fits Rothrock’s goal of showing youngsters that their community is willing to invest in them and also believes in them.

“This is an early investment that helps them become wonderful citizens and give back to the community,” Rothrock said.

The summer program, she said, helped to convey that message.

“This is an incredible start,” she said. “Hats off to everybody.


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