During the last week of June, rainy weather kept 55 children ages 5-11 indoors at the Memorial Center on North Meridian Avenue, but it didn’t quench their spirit.
With the guidance of staff counselors and others in training, the children that make up the Kids Squad weeklong summer day camp were swarming on the gymnasium court, playing a raucous game of “Everybody’s It Tag.”
“The rainy weather limits our options,” said Tyler Eidson, recreation coordinator for the City of Puyallup. “We’re lucky to have the big gym.”
The Kids Squad has been a Puyallup program for many years and can accommodate up to 84 students during any given day of the week. The camp, offered Monday through Friday, will run through Aug. 23.
During the same time span, the city also offers a Teen Squad program for ages 12-15. Through Aug. 12, the city will offer a young Kids Squad for ages 3-5.
Eidson said families pay full price for one child, and each additional sibling gets a $10 discount.
Traditionally, each day of the camp is broken into 45-minute centers. Eidson said there are craft, group play and outside centers. Youth are divided into three groups: ages 5-7, 8-9 and 10-11. There also is organized recreation time at the beginning and end of the day for all ages.
Different centers are age-appropriate. The Kids Squad goes on field trips twice a week. The group went to Tiffany’s Skate Rink, for example, and it will enjoy a Tacoma Rainiers’ baseball game on July 23.
Eidson, the oversight manager of the program, visits the Memorial Center at least once a day to make sure Lance Ferrell, the day camp director, has everything he needs.
“The last thing I want to happen is for them to run out of things to do,” Eidson said.
Ferrell started as the day camp director this summer. He comes from working 12 years in recreation in Phoenix, Ariz.
Ferrell said he loves to come up with new game ideas for different age groups. On June 27, Ferrell watched as one group of students played a game he suggested called Quietish Ball that teaches hand-eye coordination, self-restraint, memory and discipline of being quiet when kids aren’t holding the ball. In the game, students say a word that fits in a particular subject when they hold the ball, such as colors or types of restaurants.
New to Ferrell is the counselors-in-training program, which teaches youth beginning at age 14 about the fundamentals of being a day camp counselor.
“The goal of the CIT program is to teach the skills needed to be a full-time counselor,” Eidson said. “They learn our expectations. They can apply to be a full-time counselor as young as 16 years of age.”
Brenna Siltman, 16, said she would love to be a full-time counselor, but she’s happy continuing this summer as a third-year CIT for now.
“You’re sort of like a counselor’s assistant,” Siltman said. “You help with crafts and games. You help make sure kids are safe and in the right place. You help with discipline. I love being with the kids and playing the same games. I love participating in the same crafts.”
Siltman hopes her experience as a day camp counselor will prepare her for a career as a speech therapist who helps children.
Meggie Ausbun, 14, is a first-year CIT whose sister trained to become a full-time counselor. Ausbun also grew up experiencing the day camp.
“The kids have really great personalities,” she said. “It’s fun to help them have a really good experience.”
Ausbun said she enjoys acting, and she believes her opportunity to be a CIT helps her to be more comfortable talking to people and socializing.
Ferrell said the CIT program was something that didn’t exist in Phoenix.
“I enjoy working with the staff to empower them and helping them be comfortable with who they are and expressing that with kids,” he said.
The camp is open to any children, no matter where they live.
Bryce Miller, 11, is far from home. He traveled from California to visit his dad in Edgewood for the summer.
Miller went to the day camp for the first time last year. He said he enjoys interacting with other children his age in games, crafts and field trips.
“My favorite field trip last year was going to the zoo,” he said.
Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herarld_andrew.