Parks and Leisure’s pop-ups get kids active again – Progress Index

Petersburg Parks and Leisure had summer camp indoors, from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. all week long before COVID, and now as kids emerge from their homes in quarantine, there are summer activities all over Petersburg. 

“The shut down put a damper on kids and we are so excited to get them engaged in the summer months,” said Tami Yerby, who is in charge of Parks and Leisure. 

The camps started on July 6 and the activities they offer are a variety of sports, karate, and gardening. The goal is to not only get kids active but to introduce them to a variety of activities that they can learn from and continue as they get older. Gardening is one of those activities. 

Gardening activities are at the Petersburg Sports Complex where kids are working with raised beds and are run by Jacquelyn Monroe. Her father was a farmer and began gardening at a young age. She works part-time in the summer with Parks and Leisure when she is not working as a special education teacher at Petersburg High School. 

“Garding is a way to talk about nutrition, it teaches how to get along and it is a process,” she says. 

Besides a way to talk about nutrition, it is a teaching tool to teach life lessons such as things being a process. Gardening takes time and from the fruit, will they [the children] see the fruits of their labor. 

“It was hard to do activities with school and the pandemic so it’s good to have the camp,” said Marta Hernandez, whose six-year-old daughter Guadalupe, is in the camp. 

Young campers work in the raised beds at a Parks and Leisure pop-up camp.

The gardening portion of the camp started eight years ago and children loved it. Parks and Leisure also partnered with Virginia State University for field trips and campers were able to go to Randolf Farms. 

“I’m pleased to hear Petersburg has some opportunities to experience the outdoors and be learning,” said Lisa Walden. 

Walden’s two grandchildren are in camp and also participate in other activities that the camp puts on such as golf. Other activities on Wednesday include cheerleading. 

Under the pavilion for shade protection at Wilcox Lake Pavillion is where young girls are practicing cheers that they learned from cheerleaders at Virginia State University. The recreation camps such as these in the summer are often a child’s first exposure to new activities. 

“It’s physical activity, teamwork and it gives something the girls can enjoy,” said Ryan Massenberg, a member of Parks and Leisure staff when talking about cheerleading. 

The exposure at a young age can interest the camper who can continue to pursue it when they get older. The hope is for it to be a feeder system that will have young camper from Petersburg play at Petersburg High School. Especially with news of tennis returning to PHS, the athletes form the tennis team; or the cheerleaders can participate as the cheerleading squad.

Zoe Collins Rath (she/her/hers) is a sports and education reporter for the Progress-Index. For times email her at ZCollinsRath@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @zoe_jordan99.