play.jpg

Emma Hall, 6, of Chewton, left, draws a tiger on the hand of Aydan Frelin, 5, of Wampum, during the summer playground program in Wampum. — Andrew Rush/NEWS

Wampum’s playground program winds up tomorrow with hot dogs, star cookies, s’mores, surprises and certificates awarded by Mayor Jeff Steffler.

The preceding eight weeks have featured a program loaded with activity.

“It’s calm and relaxing,” said program leader Shirley Steffler, the mayor’s wife. “We have our moments, but nobody fights or yells. It’s an opportunity for kids to get together to see each other and play.”

The borough’s fenced community park is tucked away from highway traffic and homes and includes a ballfield, playground with swings and slide, and a breezy shelter with enough rows of long tables for a family reunion or for the 59 young residents crafting in the four-hour, daily summer program.

Not all show up every day. Steffler said an average of 20 to 25 attend daily, with more for special activities such as a talent show, pet show or camp-out day. She is assisted by Ashley Bessell, a communications sophomore at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“It’s fun, playing with the kids,” Bessell said. “I used to baby-sit some and some go to my church.” She added she takes her cousin, Casey Boyer.

She noted her mother, Mary Bessell, had attended the program as a child and for her aunt, Candy Bessell Youngblood, the playground program was her first job.

Monday’s session started with making kites from kits. The white plastic kite was able to be colored and decorated any way each child wished, then tail, frame and lead were attached and it was ready to fly.

“Shirrlleeee,” called a girl’s high voice over by the slide where several children were playing. “Ryan Tumlin has a nasty looking bug in his hand.”

The 5-year-old took the creature in question — an empty locust shell — for Steffler to see.

This jogged Kirsty Kozol’s memory about the time a fifth-grade boy also had found an empty locust shell and attached it to his ear as exotic jewelry.

This is the second playground season for Steffler, who earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education at Community College of Beaver County and operated her own daycare center.

“When you work with children for so long, you get all kinds of ideas and can be creative,” she said.

She’s also democratic. Each morning, the children get to pick some of the crafts they do. Monday’s choice included making beaded bracelets.

Red-haired Richie Nesbit, 5, asked Steffler to knot the ends of the elastic string on his three-bead anklet for his rabbit, Marshmellow. He made four of them.

The group has made bookworm bookmarks, tie-dye projects, ceramic tile coasters and fans. The children also had relay races, kickball, volleyball and basketball tournaments, sack and obstacle course races, and a coloring contest.

Some take their own games, like the Yu-Gi-Oh card game led by Cory Gubish, 13, who has a spiral notebook filled with his copies of cartoon drawings.

Daily at 11:15 a.m., Steffler conducts a group meeting that includes the discussion of a specific safety tip followed by any topic of their choice. Monday, everyone was hungry and glad Logan Davidson brought the meeting to an end with, “Ding-ding-ding, Lunch!”

Out came the brown bags or zippered insulated sacks with sandwiches, chips, cheese curls, cookies, fruit and Jell-o. Some gathered to talk as they ate or to look at Cory’s drawings or — as Matt Gubish, Aydan Frelin and Jackie Bender did — play Parcheesi.

To lower the effect of the 90-plus-degree temperature, they finished the day with an impromptu water battle.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.