Kids on Track
(Kids on Track program ran from 2006 through 2012)
Kids On Track was More Than Just a Summer Camp
The backstretch of Arlington Park was bustling with all kinds of activities one morning in mid August. Occasionally a child’s squeal of excitement or giggles from the older children could be heard. In the distance, a group of boys decided to play soccer while some of the girls took to asking their friends to sign their t-shirts.
Volunteers gathered their groups and readied them for games. Staff members huddled for their last-minute assignments. And then there was the bouncy house, all set up and ready for the children. A perfect day to say the least.
But along with the picture-perfect vista, everyone knew how extra special that day was. The last day of the Kids on Track (KOT) summer camp made the 206 campers, ages 3-13, a little melancholy. They were used to seeing their friends, the 32 staff members headed by D214 Community Education Coordinator Alba Jones, and 40 volunteers every Thursday through Sunday for the past seven weeks from July 5-August 18, 2012.
The children, grouped by ages and identified by the colors red, purple, blue, orange, yellow or green, immersed themselves in fun and positive activities. They had arts and crafts, gardening, sports, computer classes, story time with the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, and field trips to Heritage Pool in Arlington Heights and the Metropolis Arts Centre. The Elite Soccer Community Organization (ESCO) came and conducted a one-day soccer clinic and so did the Boys Scouts of America who organized a survival demonstration.
"KOT is a fantastic program. A lot of these children need that special attention and care," said Brenda Escutia, student services coordinator assistant and KOT volunteer since 2009. "Many of them just want you to listen to their stories or give them positive feedback on their projects. The kids get really attached to you as you do to them. Since I’ve known most of these kids since they were four, it is a great experience to see how they have learned and grown," Escutia added.
For the organizers of the KOT summer camp, the saying, "it takes a village to raise a child," is more than just a cliche. Every year, the camp comes to life through the concerted efforts of organizations like Arlington Park, Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA), CEDA, Junior Achievement, U of I Ext. Master Gardeners, Arlington Heights Noon Rotary Club, Arlington Heights Memorial Library, and D214 Community Education. This year Dan and Meg Donoghue made it even more special when they gave each child a backpack filled with school supplies.
"As the coordinating organization of KOT, we are committed to meeting the identified needs of the children and their families," said Mike Field, director of Community Education. "We are grateful for the invaluable generosity and support of everyone who makes it possible to have a KOT summer camp every year."
Nancy Ithier, a five-year KOT staffer, beamed as she watched a group of girls sign their t-shirts. "Every year my heart goes out to these kids. Even if it’s cold or raining, they’re here, they come. We can’t disappoint them," she said before walking away to join the girls.