It seems for today’s youth the thrill of climbing an un-explored live oak tree and chasing down the ice cream truck for blocks on end during a hot summer day has been replaced with hours spent inside mastering video games, surfing the Internet and indulging in the mindless act of flipping through hundreds of television programs and DVDs.
“We are in a video game and television era,” said Valerie Moore, program supervisor for the Brookhaven Recreation Department. “Our kids are not moving around, not getting outside.”
In an effort to fight the idling indoor epidemic, Moore started a summer day camp program four years ago to encourage local kids to, as she put it, “get outside and play.”
This year some 85 children enrolled in the program held the first and third week of June to reap the benefits of fresh air and a healthy exercise regimen.
Every morning upon arriving at 7:30 a.m. participants began their day with an aerobics workout appropriately fitting to the elementary school age group. Jump rope and hopscotch were typically found on the agenda along with a simple childhood act that may be in danger of extinction, as Moore explained.
“The most amazing thing I noticed was a lot of these kids didn’t know what skipping was,” she said.
Participants in the summer program visited all of Brookhaven’s city parks to showcase the outdoor activities available to the community.
“We want them to use our parks,” Moore said. “They are there for everyone.”
Throughout the program, health and safety demonstrations from various visitors provided educational entertainment for the children.
Fire safety was discussed by members of the Brookhaven Fire Department, Kim Bridge from King’s Daughters Medical Center demonstrated CPR, Byron Catchings from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department spoke about the dangers of drugs and bullying and Smokey the Bear made an appearance via Howard Stogner of the Mississippi Forestry Service.
In addition, Gladys Cheroni of the Copiah County Extension Service taught healthy eating habits through a “Kids in the Kitchen” demonstration while Latoya Jackson of the Lincoln County Extension Service spoke about sun safety.
Also, William Durr from the Brookhaven Police Department entertained a captive audience with his ventriloquism performance.
To wrap up the program, an End of Camp Bash was held Friday at Bicentennial Park with parents joining in the fun.
Moms and dads served barbecue as the children took turns trotting around on horses in a temporary corral set up by the Spirit Riders, a riding club out of McComb.
Moore said during Friday’s festivities that the program is growing each year and she feels her efforts have been largely successful.
“I just hope they follow my lead when they leave here,” she said. “It’s a simple idea. Just get outside and play.”