Sunday, September 1, 2013

Volunteering: Back Stretch Kids.

When I was in the 7th grade, a new summer camp was added to the Shenendehowa continuing education program.  My art teacher was the camp director, he pitched his program during class one day, and I went home and begged my parents to let me go.  Thankfully, they didn't want me hanging around the house during the day anyways, so they agreed and I went to the Youth Challenge summer camp.  I can safely say that I would not be the hiker/camper/person I am today had I not attended this camp.  It's where I learned about positive impact, how to read a map and to hike with a pack.  I loved this camp and became a counselor during my later high school years before continuing on to college. I've become facebook friends with my former art teacher/camp director keeping in touch now that I am back in the capital district. Last Wednesday, he posted a status requesting volunteers to help out as apart of the Back Stretch Kid program. I knew I could be available on Saturday and was eager to support those who changed my life for the better. 


I wasn't familiar with he Back Stretch Kid's program, but a bit of google research fixed that.  Many track employees are migrant workers coming to Saratoga only for the summer.  Some live at Pine Grove Christian camp, which is where the children program is also held.  From my understanding, programming is offered daily for the children and on the weekends the Presbyterian church recruit local organizations to donate time to provide a fun experience for the kids on Saturdays.

As a lover of camp  ( seriously plan to hang out with me for a long time once I start talking about how summer camps are amazing )  and wanting to support my former camp, I made my way up to Pine Grove Saturday morning.  


It was great to see my old camp director & his wife.  One of their daughters and a handful of other high school aged teens were also there to volunteer.  As well as a few of their friends. We briefly went over the schedule and then hung out until the kids began to trickle in.  Some live on the grounds while others were brought over via van in the morning.  They started the day by eating some breakfast & were delighted to have one of the teen volunteers make them balloon flowers and swords.


Soon we had about 12 children and began playing a name game, followed by Mr. Wolf (similar to red light green light) and a variety of tag games.  After the adults were a bit worn out - those kids could have played for days!  We went inside to make bracelets of different types - I made a string friendship bracelet.  But beaded and survival bracelets were all options as well.  After everyone had something new, we settled down for some Candy Bar Bingo.  Each volunteer sat with a child to help them identify the numbers and we continued to play until everyone seemed to win a piece of candy.  

We played bingo until lunch arrived (pizza !) and relaxed with a movie.  I had planned to leave around noon, but ended up sticking around until 1 - enjoying catching up, meeting other volunteers, and of course enjoying pizza.  

I'm quite glad that I made the trek from Albany to meet some of these fun kids and to support local programming.  

And while track season ends tomorrow,  this program will continue on next year. The church that coordinates the weekend volunteers is The Ballston Presbyterian Church.

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