|The Fort Thomas Recreation Department's summer campers sent thank-you notes to those stationed with FLELOGSUPPRON FIVE FOUR (VR-54).|
For decades the Fort Thomas Recreation Department has provided summer camps for children. This year both programs took the time to send a little love overseas, to those serving in the military.
Crafts and cards were sent to three different companies, two Army and one Navy—all three are currently deployed. The Tiny Tots campers made thank-you cards and "hugs." Hugs are made by lying down with outstretched arms on a piece of paper. The child's head and arms are traced, and then the child decorates him or herself as they please.
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The Summer Playground Program campers made thank-you cards, hugs and seed poppers. "Seed poppers were made with shredded paper, air-dry clay and grass seeds," says Kat Disney, Program Coordinator of the Fort Thomas Recreation Department. "They went to our heroes that are stationed in dry, sandy areas with little-to-no grass. We thought seed poppers would be fun so they can have a little piece of home."
|The package sent to those serving with the Navy arrived on July 4th.|
Disney says they've had nothing but positive feedback from community members, parents and campers. "We have received pictures from the Navy group when they opened their package," Disney says. "This particular group was pretty bummed they wouldn't be home on the 4th of July—our package was delivered on the 4th. You can see the excitement on their faces in the picture. A wife from our Navy Heroes found us on Facebook and posted how thankful they were we sent handmade crafts, and when she heard about it, she immediately looked us up—all the way from Louisiana!"
Disney says it's important to talk to children about what deployment means, especially with children who have never experienced what it's like to have a family member in the military. "When we were talking about being away from their families for six months, 12 months, 18 months, it really put it in perspective for them," Disney says. "Some of them get homesick at day camp. They couldn't imagine being away from family for that long. It was vital that they understand why we were sending things to our Heroes that were deployed, and not just send the crafts without explanation."
Matt Kremer's children, Kaylynn and Matt, attended the Recreation Department's summer camps. Kremer, who was recently at a War Exercise in Fort McCoy, Wisc., spoke with his daughter about the crafts over video chat. "She said making the drawings for the troops was important to her because she wanted to 'make soldiers smile and happy when they receive them," Kremer says. "She said her Uncle Paul (my brother) was still in Afghanistan when she created them, and she knew he was away from home for a long time, which is difficult. Kaylynn wanted the soldiers to know everyone at home thanked them for being gone."
Kremer's son, Matt, says he enjoyed making the cards because he was "good at making them" and he wanted to "cheer up the soldiers that are away from home." "He said it's important because 'the soldiers may have a bad or stressful day' and he wanted them to be happy," Kremer says.
|Summer campers made thank-you cards, hugs (as shown here) and seed poppers.|
Disney says that supporting military is important as we often take for granted the freedoms we have. "I think it's imperative for our youth to understand what it takes for them to get to come to camp, play in the park, etc.," Disney says. "I think they need to know who is putting their lives on the line so we can have fun here at home."
The Fort Thomas Recreation Department began offering the Summer Playground Program in the early 1970s, and Teeter Tots began in 1980. (Teeter Tots, a separate program from Tiny Tots, is offered in the fall and winter.)
Disney, who lives in Williamstown, Ky., with her husband, Daniel, graduated from Morehead State in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in health and physical education. "I can honestly say that I love my job and the people I work with are amazing," Disney says. "I've never worked with people that are so supportive of my vision and sometimes crazy ideas. I get to use my degree by planning and executing programs, and I still get to have fun with kids throughout the year with various programs. I want to always be striving to improve each program and the department as a whole."
This year, the Recreation Department changed the format of both camps. Each camp runs for four weeks (this year they ran from June 6 through July 1) and each week is a separate camp. Tiny Tots cost $45 per week and accepted 30 campers each week (there was a waiting list). The Summer Playground Program cost $50 per week, with 50-60 campers each week.
In the past, the Summer Playground Program held morning and afternoon sessions, and rotated between Tower, Rossford and Highland Hills Parks. "Campers were allowed to come and go as they pleased, and walk home if they didn't like the program that was being offered," Disney says. This year, the Summer Playground Program was held only at Tower Park, from 10a.m. to 3p.m. "They were required to pack a lunch and stay the entire day," Disney says.
Tiny Tots, as usual, was 8:30a.m. to 11:30a.m. Drop-off changed, though, with parents staying in their cars and Recreation staff helping campers out of their cars, walking them directly to their room. The operation reversed at pick-up, with car tags helping staff match drivers with children. "It made for a smoother drop-off and pick-up," Disney says.
|Summer camps worked with Campbell County Extension to plant plants in homemade pots.|
This year's Tiny Tots camps were themed plants and gardening, animals, heroes and camping. "We had crafts, storytime, gross motor exercise and outdoor activities," Disney says. "We went on hikes, played at the park, and had snacks." Visitors included the Campbell County Extension, who brought plants children planted in small flower pots that they had painted the day before. Honey Hill Mobile Petting Zoo brought in goats, an alpaca, sheep, chickens, a mini calf, ducks and a pony.
"We visited the Army Reserve, tried pre-made meals that they would eat while in the field, and got to climb in a tank and a hummer," Disney says. The Fort Thomas Police and Fire Departments also came to visit and talk with campers. And the Cincinnati Observatory came and educated campers on constellations.
Summer Playground Program campers also made crafts, participated in outdoor activities, ate lunches and snacks, and played organized games. In addition to the same visitors Tiny Tots campers welcomed, Jennifer Lynn from Fit Philosophie visited to teach campers workouts.
Fridays were water days for both camps.
Summer camps are over for 2016 but parents who are interested in signing up their children for 2017 can watch for flyers and registration forms to come home from all three Fort Thomas elementary schools or check here for up-to-date information.