Okeechobee Parks and Rec gets creative this summer

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County Parks and Recreation Department has kicked off its summer activities with three programs for kids. The department has partnered with the Okeechobee County Library and New Horizons to help every child in the county have a chance to have a fun and safe summer.

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
Okeechobee County Parks and Recreation is offering a free program called Fun in the Parks. The program starts daily at 9 a.m. every Monday through Friday all summer.

The Parks and Rec Department started their annual Summer Play Camp back on June 15, but had to limit the number of participants due to COVID-19 precautions. Normally the camp sees between 80 and 125 kids weekly. This year a limit of 40 campers was set.

“We filled the program before it started,” said Okeechobee County Community Services Director Denise Whitehead. “This year is presenting a lot of challenges. The camp would normally go on field trips two to three times a week to the movies, the pool, theme parks and other locations. Because transportation is a challenge this year, they aren’t able to go on those trips, so the staff have gotten creative. One thing they have done is to create field trips on site. They have put in their own concession stand for movie and pool day. The campers are rewarded for good behavior with camp cash and can use that at the concession stand to by chips, candy and snow cones. Snow cones are a favorite of all of the campers.”

In addition to the Summer Play Camp, the county is offering a free program every Monday through Friday. The “Fun in the Parks” program starts daily at 9 a.m. every Monday through Friday all summer. Activity coordinators rotate through three locations and run a variety of programs for kids ages 5 and up including arts & crafts, story time, guest presentations and sports.

“Staff stay on site for several hours as long as there are kids participating,” said Whitehead. “They have a daily craft project, read-along activities with library staff and other games and activities. All of this is free, no registration is required.”

The “Fun in the Parks” activity coordinators are at Douglas Brown Community Center Pavilion on Mondays and Wednesdays, at Kiwanis Pavilion Tuesdays and Fridays, and the Okeechobee County Library on Thursdays.

“New Horizons is graciously donating staff, training and funds to help cover many of the activities we are doing this year including water day, craft activities and our concessions stand for the campers,” explained Whitehead. “Every day they provide a staff in the park and at the camp to support the staff and ensure we have a fun and healthy camp. They have even donated funds to cover part of the weekly fee for each camper to ensure families who are struggling financially during COVID-19 can still afford to send their children to the program.”

The Okeechobee County Library is also hosting a free Virtual Summer Program five days a week on Facebook. The library has set up a group on Facebook called “Okeechobee Library’s Virtual Summer Reading” to help keep parents and kids up to date on activities. The programming includes comedy theater shows, crafts, recipes, author interviews, guest performers, contests, games and more. Two free take-home activity kits are available weekly at both the library and parks and recreation department for the program.

“As a community we are all concerned about how we can socialize and interact with others now,” concluded Whitehead. “Focusing on our overall health and wellness is vitally important during this time. The Okeechobee County Parks and Recreation staff are dedicated to doing everything we can to support the health and wellness of Okeechobee citizens of all ages. We look forward to hearing from the community on other ways we can support Okeechobee and provide such vital resources.”

Anyone wishing to provide feedback or ask questions regarding Parks and Recreation programming can contact Denise Whitehead at 863-763-6950 or by emailing dwhitehead@co.okeechobee.fl.us.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment