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Johnson City spring break camp popular with counselors, kids and parents

March 11th, 2014 10:11 pm by Tony Casey

Johnson City spring break camp popular with counselors, kids and parents

Spring Break Sports Camp at Memorial Park Community Center runs from March 11-15. During camp children will enjoy basketball, baseball, football, soccer, kickball, art and crafts, movies, games and swimming. (Photos by Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)

Contrary to popular belief, it’s the boys at Johnson City’s Spring Break Camp who take much longer to get ready for the swimming portion of their day than the girls.

Why so? The counselors say the guys are laughing, goofing around and generally need to be kept in line. But, it’s all in good fun, as is the entire camp. The Memorial Park Community Center camp is accommodating about 80 kids from different Johnson City schools from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this week while they’re on spring break.

Affordable, convenient and action-packed is one way a Johnson City mom describes the camp.

Rachel Forslin, a case manager, usually has to take time off work or coordinate opposite schedules with her husband during spring sreak week to make sure their three children have supervision, but with the ease of the Spring Break Camp, she’s more than happy to take advantage.

“Twenty dollars (per child) for the entire week,” Forslin said. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

She said she usually pays that kind of money per day, per child for childcare, and knows the fit, sports-playing focus of the camp will send her 11-year-old, Jonah Harris, and 6-year-old, Claire Forslin, going home tuckered out, something perfectly welcomed by her standards.

“I don’t want them sitting around, watching ‘Spongebob’ and playing video games all spring break,” Forslin said. Between the Olympic-sized swimming pool, two full-length basketball courts, and other new facilities at the MPCC, it’s a deal and an opportunity she can’t pass up.

The biggest talk around the camp on its second day was the previous day’s dodge ball battle between the six counselors and about 60 participating children. Despite their age advantage, the counselors simply pointed to the numbers as to why they did not win, but the children, ages 6-12, were gloating about their victory.

The Ludolph sisters, Allee, 12, and MacKenzie, 9, and their friend, 9-year-old Lily Abrams, pointed at the strategy they used to win, but also said relying on the bigger guns of the older kids was how they came out victorious. They pointed to Liberty Bell 12-year-olds Joseph Miller and Alex Elmore, who usually would be helping babysit their siblings on their spring sreaks, as the keys to their dodgeball victory.

Sponge-filled balls, not the air-filled rubber balls of yesteryear, were the weapons of choice. Elmore said their strategy was to have the younger kids feed them balls as they hid in the corners, only coming out during an attack. Because the camp was so affordable and active, Braxton, Elmore’s 6-year-old brother, was with him at camp, as were Miller’s sisters, 7-year-old Jada and 5-year-old Kiara.

Without the task of babysitting, Alex Elmore and Joseph Miller said if they weren’t there at camp, they’d be doing something stupid, like playing video games.

Sarah Whitted, a program coordinator, said they had to bump up the amount of allowed participants from 60 to 80, and they have a 25-person waiting list. A combination of the popularity of the new community center, with all its sports facilities and amenities, and the affordable rates, and parents are jumping at the chance to get their children in the program.

“Parents are psyched their kids are worn out,” Whitted said, including that a lot of new friendships are made between students from separate Johnson City schools. Their focus of participants getting fit by being healthy and active goes over well with the parents, too. The daily schedule is packed with swimming, relays, agility drills, tennis, soccer, baseball, kick ball, football, running, basketball and free time. All the children need to bring is a lunch and snack for snack time, as well as swimming trunks if they choose to swim.

On Friday, the group will go over to Carver Center, also hosting a camp this week, before heading up to Freedom Hall to swim in its pool and jump off the facility’s diving board.

Renee Ensor, also a program coordinator who graduated from Milligan College, worked for the city of Johnson City for three years, and loves that she has a job where she can play sports and hang out with kids, as well as stay active. Counselors, she said, who are looking for a more sedentary job, just don’t work out working with those children. One of Ensor’s favorite aspects of the job is seeing all the talented future high school and college athletes, and loves being involved in their sports development.

Another camp is slated for March 31-April 4 for students in Washington and Sullivan counties, as well as the Jumper Start JC Camp, which runs from June 9-July 25 at the MPCC. The cost of the summer camp will be $200 per camper and will be limited to the first 80 participants. The camp will focus on nutrition and fitness. It will include various activities; weekly field trips; a T-shirt; breakfast and lunch; arts and crafst; guest speakers; and instruction from skilled and qualified counselors.

For more information, call the MPCC at 434-5749.

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