YMCA day camp deserves support

Published 8:14 pm Thursday, July 8, 2010

More than a year after the sudden closure of the Hampton Roads Youth Center, the purchase of the 55-acre property that had been the home of a residential center for troubled youth by the YMCA of South Hampton Roads means that the property once again will be put to use improving the lives of children in Western Tidewater.

The organization began last month gutting a 10,000-square-foot building on the property in preparation for converting it from a group home into an activity center and meeting spaces. While that work progresses, officials from the YMCA also are working to raise $1.2 million for major work that is planned on the property around the existing buildings. There are plans for ballfields, ropes courses, a garden, an amphitheater, pavilions and group buildings.

The primary use for the new YMCA facility will be as a summer day camp for children from Western Tidewater. It also will be available during the off season to community groups, churches, businesses, families and others who wish to take advantage of its amenities.

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The YMCA already is a major player in the effort to combat the obesity epidemic, and the organization has made a special effort to fight the problem among children and teenagers. Such a facility will aid the organization in that work.

Increasingly, the YMCA also is seen as a solution to the problem of latchkey children, as it offers before- and after-school programs designed to keep kids safe and out of trouble while Mom and Dad are at work during the week. Designed, in part, to solve a similar problem — and to give children a signature experience of childhood summers — the organization’s existing summertime day camps fill up quickly.

The new facility, located on Kenyon Road, will be an answer to the problem of insufficient space for all those children who wish to experience a YMCA summer camp. And as it has been presented, the facility will be a valuable recreational resource for the community during the non-summer months.

Suffolk residents and businesses should be quick to support the new camp, both politically and financially. It will be the perfect complement to the city’s existing YMCA. And it will be good once again to know that the property is benefitting the area’s children.