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Kahler Hall camp takes hum-drum out of summer


Last summer, the recreational camp for middle school children at Kahler Hall had a lot to offer, especially for boys.

Rene Buckmon, Columbia Teen Center director, said she is working on giving the camp one more quality this year -- a feminine touch.

"Last year, the camp was much more sports-oriented. We've added a little more depth to it," Mrs. Buckmon said.

She said arts and crafts projects have been added to the eight-week program that began last week, as well as picnics and trips to amusement parks and other attractions.

The Harper's Choice Community Association contributed $3,700 to the program for youngsters who live in five West Columbia apartment communities. The program, which began last week, is designed to occupy kids who otherwise might be idle or "at risk" of getting into trouble, organizers said.

The camp is open from 10 am. until 3 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays in Kahler Hall at 5440 Old Tucker Row.

"It's an informal program with some structure. It gives them opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise," Mrs. Buckmon said.

Some residents of Community Homes -- Waverly Winds, Fall River Terrace and Ranleagh Court in Harper's Choice village, and Rideout Heath and Roslyn Rise in Wilde Lake village -- between the ages of 10 and 13 are charged $10 per week. Other Columbia youngsters can attend for $25 a week and children can attend any number of weeks within the eight-week period.

"Some of these kids can't attend other camps because they are too pricey or maybe transportation is a problem. These kids can walk over here," Ms. Buckmon said.

Mrs. Buckmon said regardless of the low cost of the camp, it offers all the fun things of any other program. A four-hour day consists of an outside project such as water relays, swimming or kickball, an indoor project such as cooking or watching a movie and an arts and craft project.

"Their attention spans are pretty good. Every hour I try to introduce something new to them," Ms. Buckmon said.

She said a camp for middle schoolers is essential because 11- to 13-year-olds have reached the vulnerable age.

"It is critical age because there isn't a lot of supervised time. This is the age where you can instill some things in them," she said.

Mrs. Buckmon said last year, the camp had two male counselors and heavily emphasized sports.

This year, the counselors are Michael Brony and Sonia Peters.

"It probably needed a feminine touch to attract the girls," Mrs. Buckmon said. "I wanted to give a good balance."

Still, during the first week there was only one girl among 27 who attended.

"I don't like being the only girl, but I know most of [the boys] and I'm having fun. It's better than staying in the house," said Capryce McRae, 10.

The first week on the program, she joined Allen Reed, 11, Andre Leighton, 11, Robert Burgess, 11, and his cousins, Ron Bell, 11, and Tavon Sands, 12 in a spirited game of kickball on the grassy field outside of Harper's Choice Middle School.

Dressed in the camp uniform of T-shirts, shorts and sneakers, the youngsters ended the game with a score of 15-2 and headed to the basement of Kahler Hall to make picture frames from Popsicle sticks.

Ms. Peters, 20, said this summer is her first as a counselor for the recreational camp. She said for the past two summers, she worked at Camp Esprit, a camp designed to foster self-esteem among girls.

"Boys are pretty energetic. Girls aren't as restless. Here, it's about showing them a good time," Ms. Peters said.

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