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Community spirit sustains program


COPENHAGEN — It was nearly the end for the decades-old Copenhagen Summer Recreation Program. A dedicated committee of parents and donations from the community, however, have salvaged the program from extinction, at least for one summer.

“For years, Copenhagen has supported the summer rec program,” said village Mayor Kenneth R. Clarke.

When budget constraints meant something had to be cut this year, the program was on the chopping block.

“It’s hard to raise taxes when a majority come from outside the village,” he said of children who attend the program.

Mr. Clarke estimated about 85 percent of 60 participating children come from five surrounding towns. They all attend school in the Copenhagen district.

He hopes those municipalities will provide funding to keep the program going in the future.

Camp director Julie Deveines explained the benefits of the children attending the same program, establishing relationships with their peers.

As the children participated in an obstacle course recently, those relationships were obvious. At the same time they were competing to win, the children were cheering on their competitors.

“We really do have a great group of kids here,” said Ms. Deveines.

Activities are guided by the needs of the group, she explained.

In a previous year at the program, for example, many of the students were heavily involved in soccer. Their activities catered to their desire to be involved in that sport.

This summer’s activities offer a variety of experiences for the participants, each based on a weekly theme for the crafts, board games and sports.

The group can take advantage of two gymnasiums at the school where they meet, along with the outdoor fields and playground.

Because the building is air-conditioned, the children can attend the program rain or shine, and enjoy the cool gymnasium when the sweltering humidity arrives.

Despite the activities changing year to year, Ms. Deveines did note that every year, without fail, the favorite activity remains the same.

“Dodgeball,” she said.

The children attend two weekly field trips to Westcott Beach State Park and one trip to Enchanted Forest Water Safari in Old Forge.

Rebecca Scholler recalled attending the program as a young girl. Today, her children attend the program.

“As a parent and a teacher, I know there is a definite need for this,” she said.

It was that need that prompted her, along with Matt Petrie and Michelle Johnson, to form a fundraising committee to save the program immediately after they learned it faced elimination.

“They did a great job and we have great sponsors,” said the mayor, acknowledging their hard work saved summer recreation in Copenhagen.

The group hosted a successful steak barbecue, raising $4,000. In addition, OWN Energy contributed $1,500. New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association donated $1,000, while NYSCOPBA members from the Watertown Correctional Facility added $500.

“We’re always looking to do community projects,” said John P. Gavin, regional vice president of NYSCOPBA. “Our members have kids in this area. They are our future.”

T.F. Wright & Sons Granite Foundry donated $1,000 raised at the T.F. Wright Open Golf Tournament through the Northern New York Community Foundation.

In addition, the Copenhagen Central School District’s Parent Teacher Organization contributed $1,000.

In total, nearly $12,000 was raised, keeping the program alive.

The children who participate in the program are not the only benefactors of the program.

“Without this program, a lot of families would be hurting,” said Suzette M. Parker, village clerk and program coordinator.

The five-day-a-week program offers a place for children from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Aug. 16, for a cost of $25 for enrollment.

The staff of six have been able to keep their jobs, also, thanks to those donations. Many of those staff members are pursuing careers in the education field, so the summer experience is invaluable.

Future fundraising efforts are being planned to ensure the program’s return next year. Anyone interested in donating to the program may call Ms. Parker at 688-4229.

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