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YMCA Holiday Camp fills gap

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- When school breaks or holidays arrive throughout the year, many working parents scramble to find childcare for their children.

However, it's these times that the YMCA in Dougherty and Lee counties relish as they offer holiday camps for students from kindergarten to eighth-grade.

During the recent holiday, 69 students from Dougherty County and approximately 20 from Lee County participated in the Christmas Holiday Camp. Dougherty student activities included a field trip to the Flint RiverQuarium, swimming, sports, crafts and games. The holiday camp hours were 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

"For nearly 30 years, the Albany Area YMCA has opened during school holidays and teacher workdays to give the working parents of Dougherty and Lee counties peace of mind, and their children a place to thrive," said Dave Wallace, executive director of the Albany Area YMCA.

Going outside and playing was a popular activity at the holiday camp for Dougherty students Reagen Bruce, Tyson Holmes, Larry Manley and Alissa Clark. They also liked the opportunity they had to either swim or learn how to swim.

Tyson, a kindergartner at Lincoln Elementary Magnet School, said "taking a nap and making something" were two of his favorite activities.

Live Oak Elementary kindergartner Larry appreciated his YMCA counselors.

"They're nice and they're good," he said. "We have great times here."

YMCA After-School and Holiday Program Coordinator Kawona Holliday said holiday campers created race cars with a Styrofoam car body.

Students painted the cars and attached the tires. They also made Christmas ornaments, designed bracelets with rhinestone stickers, made bead necklaces and painted and decorated paper fans. Students 9 years old and older also participated in discussions, including one about the Internet. Daily character development devotionals were also provided.

"I'll miss how much fun I had and the friends I made at the YMCA," said Traviontae Brown, a sixth-grader at Merry Acres Middle School.

James Coy Bell, a Lake Park Elementary fifth-grader, also liked attending the holiday camp.

"They respect me and give me the respect I need," he said. "We do many kinds of programs like the agree/disagree programs and we play all sorts of games. It's actually kind of fun. During the holidays, we get the whole day off of school and I don't have to read my AR

(Accelerated Reader) books."

Since becoming the after-school and holiday program coordinator in July, Holliday said she likes the way she has been able to provide a stress-free option for parents.

"As a parent, just to design a program that is full of fun, that is safe and gives the parents an ease of mind (feels good) because I've put my heart into this program," she said. "We see them doing the things we worked so hard to teach them -- honesty, leadership, confidence, self-esteem and respect."

Using positive redirection with children who misbehave is one of the program's attributes that Holliday is happiest about.

"Instead of giving them a time-out, we give positive redirection," she said. "I mean, what's the point of having time-out if they don't know what they've done? When someone got in trouble about respect, the kids had to write respect papers and interview their parents about respect. We really care at the Y."

Costs to participate in the holiday or school break camps vary based on whether families are YMCA members and the length of the day or break. For YMCA members, the first child is $82 weekly and additional children are $77. Non-members pay $85 weekly and $80 for additional children. Members pay $24 a day per child and non-members pay $27.

"We do offer financial assistance," said Tracy Wallace, the YMCA's

resource development director. "(Also), parents are suggested to register the day before the breaks."