MAILED: July 2, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- For some kids, the summer months can be filled with boredom. But that's not the case for more than 500 local children.
The 17th Annual National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) is well under way at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, providing positive reinforcement for area children ages 10 to 16 through a variety of activities.
The NYSP program began June 11 and will continue though July 16. It combines a variety of sports, math, science and other educational programs.
The children receive breakfast and lunch every day, and a physical at the beginning of the program, said Diane Gilbertson, activity director.
The goal of the program is to bring children from economically depressed areas to expose them to the university, Gilbertson said.
"Where else can they get a free breakfast, lunch, transportation, a physical, a T-shirt and excellent instruction," Gilbertson said.
The program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the children are bused to the university, she said.
The return rate of participants is more than 30 percent each summer, Gilbertson said. There also is a large return rate of staff, she said. There are 27 counselors involved with the program, seven of whom are former participants, she said.
"They really like the kids and the programs, and the commitment goes beyond the summer," Gilbertson said. "If people didn't come back, we wouldn't have what we have."
Karen Maddox, medical coordinator, oversees the free health assessments for the children. Offering the assessments allows the children to identify with the staff before the program officially begins, Maddox said. It also incorporates the university missions of education and research along with services, she said.
During the past 10 years, more than 100 UW-Eau Claire students have taken a nursing elective which allows them to help with the health assessments for the children participating in NYSP, she said.
With more than 500 kids receiving health assessments, Maddox said she is able to do a comprehensive study on the health status of children in the Chippewa Valley area. The NYSP program has attracted more than 5,000 families in the past 10 years, Maddox said.
But also having that many kids on campus calls for discipline from the liaison officer Brad Chapman, or as the kids call him "Chappy."
Chapman, who is a Longfellow Elementary School teacher, said he hasn't seen too many problems. "So far we have been lucky," Chapman said. "A lot of that is attributed to the counselors and the professional staff."
The kids are able to spend more time on activities at NYSP than they do in school, said Chapman, who coached soccer in past years. They learn more because there is more focus than in a school curriculum, he said.
The other part of Chapman's job is to gather donations for prizes which are given out daily.
More than 1,000 prizes such as T-shirts, coupons and posters are awarded to kids who obtain "Chappy cash." To obtain this cash, counselors award children for participation and positive acts.
"The more prizes we can give away makes camp more fun," Chapman said.
The last day of the NYSP program will feature a family picnic, and larger prizes such as computers, bikes and YMCA passes will be handed out.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: July 7, 1997