Family

Free summer recreation program now available for Santa Maria kids

Safe and Strong offered at 11 different locations

Free summer recreation program now...

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Summer vacation is officially underway in Santa Maria. With school now out, parents may be looking for places their children can go during the hours they would typically be in class.

For the second straight year, the City of Santa Maria is offering a summer program designed to provide a quality and comfortable environment for kids ages 6 to 12.

"Safe and Strong is our neighborhood recreation program that we offer year-round, where we try to get into the neighborhood parks and provide recreational opportunities for the kids," said Jason Davie, Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Dept. recreation supervisor.

Monday marked the start of the Safe and Strong "summer series," which will run daily for eight weeks until Friday, Aug. 11.

"Parents can drop their kids off between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., said Davie. "Neighborhood kids can walk home on their own if they'd like to or parents can pick them up."

Safe and Strong is offered at 11 different locations through the city, including Grogan Park, Oakley Park, Jim May Park, Minami Park, Russell Park, Tunnell Park, Preisker Park, Veterans' Memorial Park, Westgate Park, Rice Park and the Abel Maldonado Youth Center.

At all of the sites, kids will get to enjoy a number of different activities each day.

"We have dodge ball, we have crows and cranes, we have kickball, basketball and soccer, which everybody loves," said recreation leader Katie Espinoza.

Davie adds there are board games for kids to play, as well as other fun activities.

"They can play on the playground equipment. They've got hula hoops, dodge balls, they'll learn some camp songs, they'll be doing arts and crafts, so just lots of experiences," Davie said.

Perhaps most importantly, Safe and Strong gives kids the opportunity to be in a social setting that brings them out of their home and into the fresh air.

"It's totally opposite of them playing video games," Espinoza said. "There's a lot of kids are running around, which we want them to do. We want them to run around and be active instead of being home sitting on the couch."

Now in its second year, Safe and Strong rolled out to a successful debut last summer. Already, it appears to be even more popular.

"Last year we served over 1,000 kids," said Davie. "This year, we're only in our second day but our numbers are up over last year."

The Recreation and Parks Dept. will hold an official kickoff event for Safe and Strong at Oakley Park tomorrow. The three-hour event is set to start at 11 a.m.

"We'll have lots of our community partners providing their service, giving out information they can provide to our neighborhood families. We'll be doing our free lunch program to kids six to 12 years old and similar activities, recreation, sports, songs and arts and crafts," said Davie.

For more information on the program, call (805) 925-0951 ext. 2260.


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