By Dylan Deprey
Children scattered throughout the Wilson Park woods. Some hid behind trees, others tucked below brush. All were waiting for their opportunity to capture the flag being guarded by a strong looking set of 8-year-old boys.
The mayhem commenced as the most valiant attempted to win the game for their team. The sounds of screaming and laughing signified a parent’s best-case scenario for their child, playing outside during summer vacation.
Even in the city of the Milwaukee the children are getting the summer camp experience. YMCA’s Camp FLY is in its second year. It is the partnership between the YMCA and Milwaukee County parks. This allows the YMCA to reach out to families throughout Milwaukee.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee recently announced that they will receive $20,000 from the American Express Foundation over the next two years as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative.
CEO and President Julie Tolan of YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee said that this initiative would provide even more opportunities for children and families to have fun and engage with their community.
“Many people in Milwaukee’s urban neighborhoods have the chance to experience all that our public lands in and around the city have to offer,” Tolan said.
The YMCA’s Camp FLY is an acronym for (Fun Learning for Youth). According to Milwaukee Day Camp Director Chris Przedpelski, due to lack of resources urban youth tend to start two months behind where they left off before summer.
The camp provides learning loss remediation to the children by intertwining 30 minutes of math and 30 minutes of reading a day as well as 60 minutes minimum of science per week.
“We are not trying to further their education because sometimes that is not possible, but we are making sure they are not losing anything during the course of the sumnmer,” Przedpelski said.
The children are pretested at the beginning of third week of the program and at the end to follow their progress throughout the summer. Rain or shine the children are able to get a minimum of an hour of physical activity a day.
He also noted that with the epidemic of Milwaukee’s violent summer months it is a hard decision for parents to risk the safety of their children to play outside or rather stay inside and be safe.
“When parents are at work they know their children are safe,” Przedpelski said.
The Milwaukee FLY camps are available to everyone YMCA membership or not. They are located at Wilson Park, Greene Park, Lincoln Park, Franklin Sports Complex and all YMCA locations.
The YMCA and Milwaukee County Parks partnership also takes a dip into the pool. The Milwaukee Swims program provides anybody swimming lessons for a one-time fee of $5 a person or $10 a family ages six and up for the summer.
Przedpelski added that Milwaukee is obviously a city surrounded by water with Lake Michigan and three major rivers running through it. According to the CDC drowning is one of the leading causes of death for those aged 29 and younger, and African Americans were five times more likely to drown then a white child.
“It is a wonderful knowledge to just know how to swim but now to actually have fun in the water,”Przedpelski said.
The lessons are available at the: David F. Schultz Aquatic Center at Lincoln Park, Jackson Park Pool, Washington Park Pool, Grobschmidt Pool and the Northwest YMCA.
“It is a beautiful thing at the end of week ten watching them move from one side of the pool to the other side of the pool without help,” Przedpelski said.