The summer recreation program in Gardner, Mass., has relocated to Gardner High School for the first time ever, and the program's administrator — who happens to double as both the school's athletic director and the town's recreation director — is calling the move a success.
“This is the first summer we’ve organized a program like this,” Gardner High athletic director and Gardner recreation director Dan Forte told The Gardner News. “In the past, the ‘Summer Up’ program was funded by a grant from Mount Wachusett Community College and took place mostly at the city’s playgrounds.”
When that grant ended, Forte recognized the need for a new, inexpensive, yet sports-filled summer recreational program. From Monday through Friday, children in grades 2 through 4 attend the morning session from 8:30 a.m. to noon and an older group, grades 5 through 7 attend the afternoon session from noon to 3 p.m. Available activities include soccer, basketball, track and field, baseball, softball, and field and floor hockey — staged in the high school's LaChance Gymnasium or on Watkins Field.
“The kids rotate between three drills in the morning, then we have a water and bathroom break and return for some sort of modified basketball game, such as today’s three-on-three half-court game,” instructional supervisor Caitlin Bosse, a junior at Westfield State University, told The News. Bosse is one of eight program instructors — each a former Gardner High School athlete. They are assisted by three current GHS student-athletes.
The program's move to the high school serves as an orientation of sorts. “With future Gardner High students enrolled in the program, being here at the high school is very important,” said Forte. “We have had phenomenal interest and success so far,” said Forte. “We actually didn’t expect so much. And next year we want to add possible programs in art, nature and photography.”
For Gardner residents, the cost for the entire six-week program is only $20, and parents may sign up their children for single weeks or multiple weeks. Children are also invited from neighboring towns for a flat fee of $20 per session. Forte said that approximately 100 children so far have registered to participate this summer.
“There needs to be a place for kids to go in the summer, and for our first year we elected to go with half-day programs and focus on a different sport every week,” said Forte. “Our final week will be kind of an open-sport week when we will cycle through our greatest hits of the previous five weeks.”
“This program has been great, and such a productive use of time in the summer,” Gardner High principal Paula Bolger told The News. “Dan has done a great job working with the city and school department to put together a comprehensive recreational program. And the counselors have done an amazing job working with the younger students, so it’s been a win-win for everybody.”