Hundreds attend Planet Recreation

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 16, 2005

Five mornings a week, hundreds of Suffolk children climb into a rocket ship and blast off to a planet full of fun and recreation.

Actually, it’s not a rocket ship – it’s their parents’ car. It’s also not a planet – it’s either Mack Benn, Northern Shores, Oakland or Booker T. Washington recreation centers. But it is a place of fun and recreation.

It’s the Parks and Recreation Department’s Planet Recreation summer camp, an eight-week round of fun and learning.

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The kids generally arrive a bit before 8 a.m., then spend an hour working up an appetite with board games. After breakfast, they’ll head into their respective recreation center for a group activity, in which all the participants at the respective location play (roughly 300 kids across the city attend the four camps).

After retiring for lunch, the children separate into their age groups – they’re divided into 5-7, 8-9 and 10-12. Some go into a nearby room to do arts and crafts, while others stay in the gym to play. Over the next few hours, they’ll switch around.

Once a week, the kids go on a field trip. Earlier this week, they went to the Western Branch Bowling Alley. Over the next few weeks – the camps end Aug. 19 – they’ll go to Chuckie Cheese, the Virginia Air and Space center, and other places.

&uot;It’s so much fun!&uot; said Nicole Dixon, 9, who attends camp at Mack Benn. &uot;I have a lot of friends. All my friends come here. We made some holiday cards and some magnets.&uot;

On Friday afternoon, the Suffolk Literacy Council brought a shipment of books from the Scholastic Warehouse to the children. After handing out the literary offerings, counselor Penny Caron got the kids ready for arts and crafts.

&uot;We want to make sure they have safe, clean fun in a structured environment,&uot; said Caron, a five-year veteran of counseling. &uot;Arts and crafts bring out their creativity. You can give some of them just a piece of paper and they’ll make something out of it.&uot;

While her camp-mates showed their artistic skills, Kenya Mattocks and the rest of the 10-12ers played dodgeball and Jump the Creek (in which participants leap across two jump ropes placed a few feet apart) in the gym.

&uot;My mom told me that this was a place where you could play all day,&uot; said the first-time camper, 10. &uot;I like Jump the Creek, because I like running and it’s fun and challenging at the same time.&uot;