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Boys & Girls Clubs ramp up for summer

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GREENFIELD — If there’s any doubt that school’s out, just walk through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hancock County’s doors on a weekday morning.

The sounds of kids reverberate up and down the block halls and wings at 715 E. Lincoln St. in Greenfield as a full-blown dodge ball game caroms off the gym walls at 10 a.m. while other groups cluster in nooks and crannies throughout the building.

The club’s summer program is under way, a new board of directors is energizing and the numbers are up.

“Attendance is doing really well,” said Darren Turner, the agency’s executive director. “Things are on the upswing.”

Club statistics show more than 6,000 kids were served during 2013 on nearly 27,000 club visits, with nearly 3,000 meals and more than 25,000 snacks served on 245 program days.

Average daily attendance on the year was 120 youths per day, or about 18 percent of the club’s 667 youth members, Turner said.

But this year, Turner is bringing a revitalized board of directors on line, and though it is dealing with a learning curve, the future looks bright.

“We went from seven to 18 (board members), and there are new ideas, new blood and new energy,” he said. “It’s a good group of people that want to see the club succeed.”

Board member Jason Effing agrees.

“We’ve got a lot of good folks that are really engaged,” Effing said.

In order to raise awareness of what’s happening at the club, the board will step up its marketing efforts “to tell our story a little better,” Effing said. “They do so much good stuff there. People tend to think about the club as focusing on basketball, baseball and sports, but what they might not know is how the club focuses on academics and life skills,” he said.

In addition to a summer camp, the club is also starting a coed track and field program for kids who will be entering fourth through eighth grades in the fall.

The program starts June 16 with two-hour outings at the Greenfield Central Junior High School track on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 10 a.m.

Clayton Shultz, Eastern Hancock High School varsity track coach, who will direct the program, said the club’s summer track and field is open to all comers but limited to the first 20 paid registrants.

“I’ll take anybody that has an interest in it,” Shultz said. “I love to teach.”

The program will be split into two age groups with age-appropriate track and field events for fourth- and fifth-graders and sixth- through eighth-graders.

“We were looking to add something during the summer that nobody else is really doing,” Turner said. “This gives the junior high students a chance to practice the skills they might already have and exposes the intermediate school students to things they can do in junior high.”

Four sessions will be held throughout the summer; more information is available by contacting Shultz at (317) 462-24044 or by emailing at cshultz@bgchc.com.

The club will also use a donated kiln and a recently purchased pottery wheel for those more inclined to throw a vase than a discus with a beginner’s level ceramics class on Tuesdays from noon to 1:30 p.m.

There will be a $10 fee for the six-week session open to the first 15 club members ages 9-18 who register. Program assistant Jen Angel will teach the class and can be reached at the club for more information, Turner said.

Looking ahead, the club will embark on its community fundraising drive in July, and the board is currently working on implementing the campaign and community event to mark the effort.

The club has also been invited by the national organization to become a child club safety pilot site, developing policies and procedures to ensure child safety.

“We’re already advanced in those areas a lot more than other clubs, and we want to promote that’s what we’re known for,” Turner said.

In the meantime, summer camp is going strong, averaging about 65 daily campers since it opened last week with plenty of room to grow.

“People can still register,” Turner said. “If we get more numbers, then we’ll just add more staff.”

“We’d just as soon have as many kids as possible,” said unit director Candace Sexton. “If I know the kids are here, safe and having fun – in that order – then I’m doing my job.”

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