A crowded July itinerary compiled by the Forest Park Youth Commission has 95 activities listed for kids in the village. And that doesn’t include eight two-hour sessions in July and August offering free activities like ultimate Frisbee, tennis, volleyball, flag football, wiffle ball and the beanbag toss at the Park District on Harrison Street.
The Youth Commission held a Kids Expo at the Park District last week to launch the upcoming series of events. The kickoff was cancelled because of rain, but many of the 30 parents and their children who attended in spite of the weather used the opportunity to discuss summer programs with Youth Commission member Rachell Entler and Park District Recreation Supervisor Josh Enos. At the front of everyone’s mind was finding ways to make sure the youths in town have opportunities to stay active.
“I don’t doubt that there are some complaints, I have actually heard some of them from parents in town,” Entler said. “Anytime you have adults running the programs there can be a disconnect between what the kids really want and what we are offering. We created a survey that was given to students at the Forest Park Middle School to get a better sense of what are some of the activities they would like. There are definitely a lot of programs being offered, but there is always room for improvement.”
Complaints from parents run the gamut. The lack of activities, inadequate supervision and scheduling conflicts are common laments, said Entler. But the Park District, Howard Mohr Community Center and Forest Park Public Library offer a fairly representative array of games, said Entler. She added that the Youth Commission will strive to act as a liaison between those entities while paying attention to kids’ interests and parents’ suggestions.
Acting on the survey responses is a “beefed up” Youth Commission, said Entler, which now boasts between six to eight people. Prior to the influx of recent appointees, Mary Win Connor handled virtually all aspects of the Youth Commission.
Entler also pointed out that the perception of a lack of activities isn’t always the reality.
“I know that the community center and the library have had some issues with people not registering for programs,” Entler said. “Activities may be out there, but there is only so much those entities can do if people don’t register.”
The purpose of the July 10 expo event was to help program organizers better understand what it is the kids would like to do. By offering a variety of activities for kids to try, said Enos, the various organizations can determine which events are more popular.
“The purpose of the Kids Expo is to reach out the community, particularly kids between the ages of 11 and 13 to figure what they are interested in,” he said. “That’s been a tough age group for us to draw interest. We want to give them an idea of the kinds of programs we offer, and hopefully spark an interest with them.”
Along with traditionally popular sports like baseball, football and basketball, the Park District has been opening up its playbook with well-received new activities like an ultimate Frisbee pick-up game and a Japanese Anime drawing class at the community center, which attracted 30 and 40 kids, respectively.
To promote their summer programs, the Park District staff mailed brochures to families. Youth Commission member Eric Entler also mentioned that promotional flyers were distributed to children at the end of the school year. In the future, the Youth Commission plans to add e-mail blasts and create a My Space page to keep kids informed of planned events.