Originally created 01/22/06

Parks department wins state award for summer camp



Aiken County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department has won the Innovative County Program of the Year Award for 2005 from for its summer Coca-Cola Kids Camp.

Parks department Assistant Director Emory Langston accepted the award from the South Carolina Recreation and Park Association at a recent Aiken County Council meeting.

Ms. Langston said the kids camp was started after department officials realized their summer programs needed continuity.

"The recreation we were doing was not working. It was a day here, a day there, a day there. It's evolved over the years. We don't want it to get stale. We try to evaluate, 'OK, this is what worked. This is what didn't work,'" she said.

The weeklong camp for ages 6 to 12 is held for eight consecutive weeks in different communities. The three-hour morning sessions involve organized sports and games, refreshments and an educational class.

The camp is free because of three major contributors - Coca-Cola, Security Federal and Bridgestone/Firestone - and a host of smaller supporters. Parks Director Brian Sanders said the county pays transportation costs and the salaries of two interns.

"Those sponsors are everything to us. Without Coca-Cola, Security Federal and Bridgestone/Firestone, forget it. It couldn't be done," he said.

Staff members from Aiken County Mental Health Association present a session about dealing with stress, effective communication skills and self-esteem. The Department of Juvenile Justice helps campers understand the link between actions and consequences.

Two other sessions are always popular with campers, Ms. Langston said.

"Kids go nuts over the (Silver Bluff Audubon Center),'' she said.

The other popular educational class is conducted by Mary White, of the Aiken County Historical Museum.

"Theirs was the coolest presentation. She talked to the children about what school life would have been like 150 years ago. They really related to that," Ms. Langston said.

Reach J.C, Lexow at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or jc.lexow@augustachronicle.com.