GCRC summer playground a chance for kids to remain active
Editor's note:This is the fifth in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.
BY BECKY MALEWITZ
Without funding from the Finney County United Way, the Garden City Recreation Commission's free summer playground program would not exist.
The eight-week program offers a place for children, ages kindergarten to 13 years old, a safe place to play, learn and exercise in a supervised environment.
"It gives them a place to go and the USD (457) also provides meals for us." said Jared Rutti, sports director at the Garden City Recreation Commission, adding that without the program, some of the kids would be left home alone and unsupervised.
Last year, the GCRC playground program received $8,022 from the Finney County United Way and will be getting around the same amount this year, according to Rutti.
"They could either be playing on the streets or sitting at home in front of their TV playing video games and not getting outside and exercising," Rutti said. "It just gives them a place they can go and have fun, enjoy, interact, learn and be a kid."
The program has sites in Finnup Park and Scout Park run by the GCRC, and a site at East Garden Village run by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny Counties.
According to Rutti, funds from the United Way cover a majority of the program's cost, from the buses they send out to pick up the kids to the games and equipment they use on a daily basis.
In addition to keeping the kids social and active during the summer, the playground program has a variety of activities to entertain the participants.
"We do a lot of different games. We try to do arts and crafts. Each week, we try to do a different theme. Like, we try to do a health week, insect week, zoo week, barnyard week — you know, we try to introduce something," Rutti said. "The extension office comes out, and we have speakers come in from the fire department, sheriff's department, police department and they do the drug talk."
This year, the playground program was able to plant gardens at both their Finnup and Scout park sites using money from a Big Brothers Big sisters grant.
"The kids got to do gardens. Some of the produce we put in the fair, and we got blue ribbons. So they got to learn that their hard work does pay off. I think they enjoyed it," Rutti said. "Our intern was actually the one that helped out with that. She did a good job with them, and she would go out there on the weekends and make sure the garden was watered and take care of the garden when the kids weren't there because there's three days there without anyone watching it. We're still getting stuff off those gardens even with the program being over with."
Rutti is appreciative to the United Way and the funding that the playground program receives and thinks the program is something that is not only good for kids, but something they enjoy.
"The kids enjoy it, and that just shows by the kids that keep coming back every day," he said. "If they didn't enjoy it, they're not going to come back."
The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $560,000, which is $10,000 more than last year.
The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 campaign include:
Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council — Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains — CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital — Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission — Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels.