SOUTH SHORE: Good character is taught at this camp

Published on: July 11, 2018

Raising kind kids

A summer camp where kids learn good character and more

By YVETTE C. HAMMETT

Youngsters participating in a Hillsborough County summer camp called Raising Kind Kids, got to visit the Pet Resources Center on Falkenberg Road, where they donated leashes, food, blankets and other necessities for lost, abandoned and orphaned animals. Pet Resources employee Christine Leto holds the leash on Daisy while students surround her for a photo. Pictured are Roy Haynes, Grace Rothy, Mason Weesner, Aisha Vieira, Antonio Gallo, Keirsta Archer, Madison Eames, Immanuel Genao, Rapheala Vieira and Kendall Hernandez. (Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation photos)

Youngsters at one of Hillsborough County’s summer camps are learning more than how to jump rope and shoot hoops. They are learning the importance of good character and are being rewarded for good behavior.

Kisha Perry, recreational program supervisor for Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation’s summer program, came up with the idea to drop some character into camp curriculum.

The Raising Kind Kids program is a lot like its name. It’s for kids at summer camp to learn the importance of good character, caring for others, giving back, along with other good traits. 

“I feel like we are helping a generation of children who don’t have that much primary focus on character in their lives,” Perry said.

“The program includes a community service project where they make care groups: For veterans, chemo patients, pets, etc.,” Perry said. “They just did something last week at our animal shelter.

“Basically, it is to provide community service through partnering with parents and using the Character First curriculum about caring for others, compassion and giving back.”

Perry has 140 kids each two-week camp throughout the summer utilizing the Character First program like the one used in many elementary schools.

“They learn a good character word each week and engage in activities to reinforce it. This week the word is ‘compassion,’” Perry said. “We have a whole curriculum just for that word. They will play games and different activities.”

Those that show good character in three different age groups get to choose a boy and girl who have exhibited these character traits. 

“We have a two-week camp cycle, and at the end of each cycle the kids choose a boy and girl, so, a total of 12 summer campers go on a field trip with me using donations we’ve collected. We have a lunch-and-learn at the site,” Perry said.

For instance, the kids donated to the local USO chapter, which helps active military with non-essentials and they donated to the county’s Pet Resources Department, which cares for lost, abandoned and orphaned animals.

The kids during the first two-week camp session went to the USO, did a tour, took a picture and learned about what the USO does. All parents donated different items. “We did care packages of water, fruit snacks, popcorn, chips, all going to the troops.”

Pet Resources was up next, with parents donating blankets, treats, leashes and collars, dog food and cat food. “We were able to go on a tour, and we even had some media coverage.”

More recently, the kids donated to St. Joseph Children’s Hospital, collecting all items children going through chemotherapy might need. “We are creating baskets with things to help with nausea and such.”

Kids participating in one of many Hillsborough County summer camp programs this year are the first ones to participate in a new Raising Kind Kids program. One of the field trips for the best performers was to the local USO where the youngsters made goody bags for the troops.

The kids are loving it, Perry said. “I ask them to tell me what compassion means and how they are practicing it with their friends or family. They express themselves and speak well about how they’ve shown compassion toward others. 

 “I’ve been working for the county for 25 years and you see evolving times and how kids have changed,” Perry said. “I felt compelled to find a way to give back. We are missing a lot of that character in the world.”

Perry said she hopes to expand the program to some other camps next summer since it has been such a success this year.

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