By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – The 2014-15 school year recently wrapped up with an after-school celebration at Machesney Elementary School.

Elementary school youngsters were all over the grounds, playing games, climbing different kinds of equipment. Inside, they had a new experience – wearing a velcro suit and then being stuck to an inflatable velcro wall – before being treated to hotdogs and chips.

The event was put on by the YMCA of the Rock River Valley, which has partnered with Harlem School District 122, Rockford Public Schools District 205 and the Pecatonica district in after-school programs at 19 elementary campuses.

On May 29, a YMCA bus carried students from Olson and Ralston elementary schools to Machesney for the grand finale.

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) has a long history of being involved with after-school programs.

Bif Buchan, executive director of the camping services for the local Y, said the organization recognized the need in the Parks area for after-school care.

“We felt it was best to meet the children where they were – at the school,” he explained. “It (program) helps build a partnership between the Y and the various schools.”

“The Y is about not only child care but teaching values,” he added. “Caring, honesty, respect and responsibility are the cornerstones of healthy youth development.”

Tracy Ellinger, a site director who supervised the year-ending festivities at Machesney Elementary, said the after-school program has structured time. That can include homework assistance, tutoring and various activities, both indoor and outdoor.

Summer programs begin

Now Parks-area youngsters are transitioning into the YMCA’s summer program, being held at the Northeast Family YMCA, I.D. Pennock Family YMCA and Winnebago Family YMCA.

Activities began June 8 and will continue until Aug. 14. The cost is $115 per child, per week. Call 815-489-3375 for information on space availability and scholarship opportunities.

The Y has an “Open Doors” program as “we want to be sure no child is left inside,” Buchan said.

Of the 10-week summer program, he said, “It’s all about being the best summer ever. We have a staff who loves and is passionate about kids. They can turn a field or a basketball court on a parking lot into something magical that kids will never forget.”

Each week has a theme, with June 15-19 being Medieval Camp. Others include Superhero, Party in the USA, Myths and Legends, Rock n’ Roll, Disney, I Love the ’80s, Interstellar and concluding Aug. 10-14 with Wizardry Week.

Participants are asked to leave all electronics, including cell phones, at home, along with their toys.

A typical day starts with the opening ceremony from 9 to 9:45 a.m. Enrichment tracks, games and character development is from 9:45 to 11:15 a.m. Lunch prep, lunch itself and clean-up goes from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

In the afternoon special events, games and asset building are scheduled from 12:15 to 2:15 p.m. Swimming is from 2:15 until 4 p.m., followed by snack time, from 4 to 4:30 p.m.

Field trips are planned every Thursday, starting June 18.

Extended camp activities are available from 6:45 to 9 a.m. and from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.  YMCA I photo

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