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Beating the heat rec center style

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image Coach Ricky (a.k.a. Ernest Howell) shows how it’s done! Penny Fletcher Photo

It was part of the indoor activity schedule the kids use when it’s just too darn hot to play outside.


RUSKIN — South County is fortunate to have two recreation centers with summer programs for youth ages 5 to 15 and both are filled to the brim.

One is the Ruskin Recreation Center, 901 Sixth St. S.E., Ruskin, and the other is Gardenville Recreation Center, 6215 Symmes Road, Gibsonton.

My schedule only allowed time to visit one center so by the time I got to the Ruskin Recreation Center, July 6, it was nearly 3 p.m. and it was really, really hot.

But inside, the kids taking part in their Friday party didn’t seem to mind. The a/c was on high and they were preparing to do Hula Hoop and Jump Rope contests.

It was part of the indoor activity schedule the kids use when it’s just too darn hot to play outside.

Arts ands crafts are also big around the rec center and head-party-planner-and “keeper-of the jumpin’ joint” Joy Robinson showed me the things they’d done since the program began June 18. Between then and its end, Aug. 10, shortly before school starts back, every week has had (and will continue to have) a theme around which almost all activities are planned.

Besides normal recreation- games, exercise and play- these themes are educational as well as fun.

The theme last week was American Pride because of the July Fourth holiday and included stories (connected with the library’s Literacy Program) about famous Americans including President Barack Obama. 

The 138 children registered in Ruskin’s summer activity program are kept busy from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. although they do not have to attend those hours — all depending upon the parents work schedule and preference. At a sliding scale cost of between $40 and $76 for two five-day weeks, it’s been called the best deal in town.

Most of the kids come from Apollo Beach and Ruskin, Robinson said, but some come from Wimauma.

Those living in Gibsonton and Riverview attend the Gardenville Recreation Center that has also been busy with its programs.

“Right now, the kids are reading from the Horse Tales books,” Robinson told me. “We read an hour a day. They’re reading things like The Black Stallion. We’re going to the Florida Fairgrounds and watching Arabian Nights July 25 when they’ll get to see real horses in action.”

This week the kid’s theme is Wild Adventures, and the kids will be given learning information that will tie in to some of the trips to the Florida Aquarium, Wet & Wild and Busch Gardens they’ve taken — or plan to take — this summer with the group.

The last week of camp, the theme will be Countries of the World, featuring cultures, holidays and stories — and of course, related activities of many kinds.

This week “American Pride” took a jump back in time as lessons — ending in contests —  featured 1950s and ’60s-style play like hula hooping and jump rope which the kids said they found quite different from the computer games they play now. (Except when they’re at the rec center and get to play organized sports like softball and kickball!)

Ernest Howell (a.k.a. “Coach Ricky”) demonstrated the hula hoop in great style and kept the kids clapping as he swayed back and forth keeping the hoops going to the beat of the rock music coming over the PA system.

But when all was said and done, it was 8-year-old Maelis Jaimes who won the contest, juggling four hoops at once without ever missing a beat.

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