Behind the Scenes camp puts kids in the spotlight


The soft, poetic lyrics of Bob Dylan have been heard here, as have the high-decibel guitar riffs of such groups as Rage Against the Machine. Tennis players Pam Shriver and Anna Kournikova have smacked forehand winners, and WWF wrestlers The Rock and Mankind have whacked foreheads inside these walls.

Yesterday, it was someone else's turn.

About 300 kids gathered at the Baltimore Arena as part of the Camp BaltiMorArena Behind the Scenes one-day summer camp, meant to give them a chance to not only walk where the stars have walked, but to learn to kick, shoot, swing and even dance like them.

"This is our 10th year of bringing the kids in here to go behind the scenes, and they really seem to have fun," said Edie Brown, the Arena's director of public and community relations. "We let them see how tickets are made, check out the Zamboni machine and score some goals on a few generous Blast players."

The kids come from across the city and from all walks of life, Brown said. Few people will ever stroll across the outfield in Camden Yards, but these kids got to shoot on the same baskets as the Bayrunners, at one of nine stations set up in the arena.

There was something for everyone. Patricia Young, a wide-eyed 6-year-old with a love for Tom and Jerry cartoons, wasn't exactly pushing to get to the front of the line for the lacrosse station, but she found a quiet sanctuary at the arts and crafts table.

"I made a puppet, but then I threw it away 'cause it was ugly," she said shyly.

For nearly half the kids, yesterday was the first time they had held a tennis racket. It's all the more reason to organize these kinds of opportunities, says Marc Kantrowitz, who represented the Baltimore Tennis Patrons Association.

"It was Arthur Ashe's dream that tennis really be available and affordable to everyone," Kantrowitz said. "The city programs have been somewhat dormant in Baltimore, but here we're trying to give kids just a spoonful of it with the hope that it will spark an interest."

Kantrowitz said the recent grand slam victories of women's tennis players Venus and Serena Williams have sparked interest among minorities, especially girls.

"They've given the game an exposure it really needed and acted as terrific role models," Kantrowitz said.

There were still numerous scenes of controlled chaos to be found. "First of all, there will be no running in the Baltimore arena!" bellowed Edgar Williams, head of security, stopping a cluster of 7-year-olds dead in their tracks. "But if you have any questions," he adds softly, "make sure to stick your hand up and ask."

"I like coming here to watch the dirt bikes," said Deante Weldon, a 7-year-old from Easterwood Rec Center. "I wish they had some wrestling here. I like the WWF.

Brown, who acted as the lighthouse in the storm of children,staff, food and games, said daylong camp is one of the staff's favorite events of the year.

"Our staff really loves it," Brown said. "It's a nice change from work, and when you get to reach out into the community and are successful, it becomes a lot of fun."

Defenders Todd Hicks and Pete Medd from the Baltimore Blast were on hand to offer advice on some soccer skills, and Tony Esposito, who runs the Zamboni machine, patiently explained its inner workings. Still, the hands-down favorite station and the one with the most participation involved the least equipment or planning: dance music.

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