WHITMAN — While August by no means signifies the end of summer vacation it is the culmination of seven weeks of the Whitman Park and Recreation summer program.
The summer experience, which has averaged 75 kids weekly, has been a joyous celebration of returning to see friends; engaging outdoors in nature and seeing unmasked friends reunite after a long evolving school year.
New Camp Director Kathleen Woodward has been with the program for this past year. She emphasized that although recreation is finished this week the pool along with swimming lessons are still open and available.
Families can purchase pool passes and swimming lessons as part of the Town of Whitman. Information on the pool is available on the Town of Whitman website.
Camp Director of Recreation Gabby Callahan has served as both a camper and counselor over the last six years. She is now in her senior year of nursing at Fitchburg State University. She is leaning towards pediatrics. She loves working with kids and is passionate about the recreation program. Along with her staff in the recreation department it is rewarding to have a hand in generating a positive outdoor experience for campers, she added.
The camp has been around for decades and has hosted countless families who undoubtedly have memories of the park including stories of squirrels that have finagled a lunch or two.
Callahan reminded the campers on Monday during day one of session seven that unzipped, unsealed snacks are fair game to the little critters in the park. The group shared a snicker at the incident in a previous session in which a tricky squirrel carried a brown-bag lunch up the tree before anyone noticed.
Each morning the campers check in, find their age groups, donning bright blue T-shirts they chat with friends until morning circle.
Rotation stations include entertainment such as: crafts, gym time and free play on the playground, swim time and sports with long time camp counselor Sports Director Nick Kardoose.
Themed crafts are always a suggestion as often times creative campers will come up with different ways to use the supplies such as: folding old fashion paper airplanes. The timeless generational pastime has been as popular as the Gimp braids used to make handmade bracelets.
Tether ball during game rotation is a hit as well as board games and free block that it is worked in for a lighter period of structure.
There is disc golf, kickball, relays, dodge ball, to name a few. Swimming is daily and for anyone who decides not to swim they can enjoy board games or sidewalk chalk.
Town Hall is the rainy day shelter when it is a complete washout for outdoor activities. It can be harder on rainy days but a new projector has allowed for movies. Camp counselors will bring in items that will engage or prompt activities such as a toy they had growing up. It can spark interest and is always age appropriate. The location is in use for town related business so it makes it a bit harder to let go and run wild like the good old outdoors.
Science walks, lava lamps, using nature to create designs have been just a few of the hands on activities over the last two months.
Olympic week kick off during session number four was a build up to the Olympics. Campers created the Olympic ring symbol using paper circle plates among others daily projects.
“We had a huge emphasis on team building and working together so we incorporated mentoring with the older kids assisting the younger kids,” she said.
The recreation program did remain closed over 2020 during the height of the Covid Pandemic.
“We were so excited we got to run this year. It was up in the air and we received the OK. We are so excited. Kids need to be outside, interact and giving them something like this (program) is incredible,” said Callahan.
Reese Cordero a 2021 graduate of Whitman Hanson is also among the counselors this year at Park and Recreation. She was playing football during game time at the basketball courts. Taking turns with runners and hikers the lively group had a lot of energy to burn despite the dampness on Monday and looming rain.
Codero is planning on majoring in criminal justice at Roger Williams University in the fall. Her goal is to become a DARE Officer and work with the youth population.
She grew up in Whitman and said what she loves about Whitman Park and Recreation is seeing the happiness on their faces (campers) having fun and just being kids.
Visit the Town of Whitman website for information on sign-ups for all ages swimming lessons and family open swims which runs through Labor Day.