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Boys and Girls Club makes life easier for parents in resort industry

Emily Lopez, 8, puts the finishing touches on a reindeer made from a lunch bag Thursday before hurrying off to play dodge ball at the Boys and Girls Club of Steamboat Springs.
Tom Ross

— With more than 10,000 visitors in Steamboat Springs heading into New Year’s weekend, it’s time for people working in the resort industry to put the pedal down. But it’s not as simple as that for parents of school-aged children.

The kids are on holiday break too, and the Boys and Girls Club of Steamboat Springs at the Eighth Street Gym in Old Town is meeting the need for childcare with special “open play days” that cost parents just $1 per hour.

The sessions have been offered this week and are also available from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 3 to 6. For a buck an hour per child, hard-working parents in the lodging, snow removal, dining, property management and activity industries, or any line of work, can be assured their youngsters, from age 6 to fifth grade, are in a safe, supportive environment, where they get to choose from a wide variety of activities.

“We want the mountain and the town to be busy,” Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Dana Duran said Thursday while small knots of happy children swirled around her. But we know, “the boredom that children can feel right after the holidays, that can lead to fighting with their siblings and stress for parents.”

And the youngsters get to decide for themselves what activities they take part in.

“The kids get to choose from stick ball or pool or art room,” Boys and Girls Club Development Director Celina Taylor said.

Other activities include computer lab, jump rope, reading or even a field trip to the movie theater for the latest Star Wars release.

Duran said her favorite aspect of the club is that the kids all interact with one another without regard for status derived from economic circumstances or prowess in academics or athletics.

When school is in session, Taylor said, the club hosts youngsters for an after-school session from 3:10 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The club charges an annual membership fee of $25 per per youngster, and after that, after-school programming is free.

“It’s important to us that the club is accessible to all families and money is never a worry,” Duran said.

During the first session of open play days, which was offered Dec. 27 to 29, the club welcomed 95 kids a day on average. That’s down slightly from daily numbers when classes are in session and daily attendance is a little over 100. But the total number of unique individuals served by the club annually is approximately 950.

On a cold winter morning this week, Carter Kopischke, 8, and Vito Delguercio, 7, were lining up shots on a full-sized pool table, while half a dozen other boys buzzed around them, waiting to take their turn with the cue.

Next door, in the art room, Cadence Pryke and Emma Willson, both 9-year-olds, were quietly finishing up paintings before moving on to the gym.

At another table, Emily Lopez, 8, was putting the finishing touches on a reindeer made from a paper lunch bag, under the guidance of one of the camp’s student employees.

The Boys and Girls Club involves high school-aged students in supervising the younger children, first as interns, and later, as paid employees when they’ve shown they have the right skill sets.

Taylor said her work with the children is extra rewarding.

“I get paid in hugs and Cheerios,” she said with a smile.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1


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