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DECATUR – GiTerrez Cole had never tried strawberries.

“This is good,” said the 7-year-old, through a full mouth.

He had the chance to try the fruit, and to learn to make his own fruit salad, at Old Kings Orchard Community Center during the June safety camp.

Open to neighborhood kids or any other kids from kindergarten through sixth grade, the four-week camp has a different theme each year when funding is available to hold the camp, said camp director Megan Meyrick. Because they're utilizing free activities and programs available in the community, the only cost is staff. This year, First Presbyterian Church covered half the cost.

“We participate in the park district's free lunches, so the kids get lunch and a snack every day,” Meyrick said. “Then we have a different safety topic every day. We've done fire safety, the firefighters came and talked to the kids about an escape plan, smoke detectors, things like that. They brought all their gear and showed them that and talked about calling 911. Every Thursday we take them to the YMCA and have a water safety class. That's been huge because we only have two kids who know how to swim, and the majority are terrified of the water for the most part.”

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When parents registered their kids for the camp, the child's swimming ability was one of the questions they had to answer, Meyrick said, because she wanted the instructors at the Y to know where they'd have to begin with the water safety class. They're learning how to get in and out of the pool properly and how to behave in the water more than gaining swimming skills, because so many of them have no pool experience, and the Y is providing the weekly class for no charge.

The theme of “safety” can be applied to almost any activity, Meyrick said.

“You can be safe getting in and out of the car,” she said. “You can be safe in the kitchen.”

The fruit salad activity was focused on kitchen safety, and GiTerrez and fellow camper Zy'Teria Allen, who is also 7, said a main component was washing their hands.

The Decatur Police Department came in for a K9 demonstration, and staff takes children to Scovill Zoo on Thursdays, when there's free admission, Meyrick said.

Last week, the Red Cross provided training on The Pillowcase Project, which is emergency preparedness for elementary school-age kids. The kids learn ways to stay safe and to create their own emergency supply kits by decorating a personalized pillowcase in which to pack essential items, to make it easy to grab and go if necessary.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter


Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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