For the first time, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City is hosting a summer program in Johnson County.
Now in its third week, the Atomic Blast program at Center of Grace in Olathe is benefiting about 75 kids. There is room for about 25 more.
Penny King, vice president of operations, said she was alerted to the need for the program when she was approached by a group of parents at an Olathe South High School basketball game.
“They said, ‘What do we need to do to get a club over here? We need something for our kids to do,’ ” she said. “They needed something for their kids to do after school and in the summertime that was all about the kid, not about the whole family, but all about them.”
The percentage of students in Olathe schools receiving free or reduced-cost lunches has risen in the past few years, and King said youth in the Olathe area are at risk for drug and alcohol abuse. According to a Communities That Care survey from 2006-2007, nearly 34 percent of high school seniors in Johnson County reported binge drinking in the past two weeks.
“They needed a place for their community to feel safer. As long as the kids are in here, they’re not out there figuring out something negative to do,” King said.
The five-week program costs $60 per child. Tuition includes two meals and a snack each day, all field trips and a T-shirt.
“We really, traditionally, never want the membership fee to be a deterrent,” King said.
Kids in the program begin the day with breakfast, then head to the gym for exercises and announcements. They split into groups according to age, ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade, for educational activities focusing on science and math.
“We sneak in learning on the kids. They don’t realize they’re learning,” King said. “They’re having a good time. We’re not school but we align ourselves after school and in the summertime with what the school is trying to get done, and we make it fun.”
Each week of the program follows a different theme. Some of the activities have included gardening, learning to make ice cream and baking bread.
Summer director Felicia Craig said some of the most important learning happens in playtime.
“It gives us the opportunity to teach good citizenship,” Craig said. “When you’re in the game room playing board games, or you’re in the gym playing basketball, that lends itself to really implement that piece of Boys and Girls Clubs that speaks to character development.”
Later in the summer, Craig said, there will be field trips and specialty workshops for the kids to enhance what they’re learning in the classrooms.
Boys and Girls Clubs are nondenominational, but King said they are thankful for their partnership with Center of Grace, the mission campus of Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe.
“We’re leasing space, but it’s really a godsend because it’s much, much less (in cost) than it should’ve been,” King said. “We pick up where the church here stopped. They have a gym and they would have open gym for the kids, but it’s nothing structured.”
King hopes this summer will be just the beginning of the Boys and Girls Clubs’ involvement in Olathe. No fall programs are planned yet, but King is keeping her fingers crossed that the foundation will raise enough money to keep programs going.
To reach Mackenzie Clark, call 816-234-4905 or send email to email@example.com.