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Celebrating America program issues challenge for the summer

The Celebrating America initiative has been urging Carroll County's residents to learn and experience more of local history since its inception in 2011. One way they are doing this is by challenging children to visit a wide variety of historic landmarks in the Summer Adventure program.

Before the start of the first Summer Adventures program in 2012, the initiative compiled a list of 20 sites including museums, libraries, town main streets, fire companies and historic markers, and has challenged all participants to visit at least 13 of the sites during the summer months, said Roberta Windham, media liaison at the Commissioners Office. At each location, the participant must take a photo of themselves at the site. When they have successfully visited the required number of sites, they can then turn the pictures into any branch of the Carroll County Public Library. The program runs from the end of the school year through Aug. 31.

At the end of the summer, everyone who participated will be invited to a social event where they will receive a certificate of completion and prizes will be handed out, including an iPad, books and passes to the Carroll County Farm Museum, which also happens to be a location on the list.

Dottie Freeman, manager of the museum, said by visiting these historic landmarks, children are able to get a first-hand look at not just where people lived but how.

"It's rewarding to know that by visiting the museum, we have touched the children's lives by showing them history in a way they may have never seen before," Freeman said.

Windham said the program is geared towards children between first-eighth grade, but anyone can participate.

"We aren't married to a specific age," she said. "We have kids who will bring their younger sibling who may be in kindergarten and we aren't going to say no to them."

The Summer Adventure is in its third iteration, said Commissioner Doug Howard R-district 5. Both the adventure and the Celebrating America initiative were creations of Howard in late 2011. He said the initiative's goal is to enhance what kids learn in school, to bring to life the history in the area and to connect them to the community.

"People don't realize the amount of history in Carroll County," Howard said. "The experience of seeing history sparks that extra level of interest in our country, how it came to be and what sacrifices have been made to preserve it."

The first year was a learning experience, said Windham. There were just six participants yet that number grew to 50 the following summer. Both Howard and Windham said they hope to grow the summer program each year. Next year, there will be an extended program for older children which will include sites outside of Carroll County, said Howard.

To ensure the growth and success of both Celebrating America and the Summer Adventure programs, Howard said the initiative has partnered with multiple organizations, including many of the sites on the list, the Carroll County Public School system, Carroll County Public Library, the Carroll County Department of Tourism and the Boy Scouts.

"We want to form partnerships and we can really enhance the community's experience at little cost just by being creative," he said.

Another advantage of the Summer Adventure program is how it involves the entire family, Howard said. While visiting historic sites with his children, Howard said he noticed other families were doing the same thing.

"If a kid gets out to these sites, it exposes the family," he said. "I think my family and others that get the experience are better for it."

Howard also said another purpose of the initiative is the preservation of the area's historical sites, as well as ensuring the accuracy of the information presented. Since the list of 20 sites was compiled for the Summer Adventure program, one location, the Leister's Store Museum, has closed. Hopefully, by making people aware of the county's rich history, the better off Carroll County will be as a whole, said Windham.

"We want our residents to know what is in their back yard," she said.

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