MARYSVILLE — They bring books and dodgeball to the kids.
This is the second summer that volunteers from the Marysville YMCA and Marysville School District have come to apartment complexes to encourage children to play in the sun, and offered books and snacks in the shade.
On Wednesday, children did stretches, sit-ups, jumping jacks and races before a lively game of dodgeball. Afterward, there were snacks, water bottles and bins of books to look through and take home.
JJ Frank, executive director of the Marysville YMCA, led the activities at the Cedars on 67th and Cedar Grove apartment complexes. Teachers and Kellogg Marsh Elementary Principal Eneille Nelson joined in. There also have been summer reading events at the school.
“We’re building strong relationships with families outside of the walls of the school,” Nelson said. “Seeing their teachers outside of school, out in the community, is so powerful.”
The program started last year. This year, it doubled in size, with at least 20 children at each site Wednesdays.
A few years ago, teachers tried opening the school library in the summer, but few kids came, teacher Debbie Whitfield said. They decided to take books to families, instead, and the YMCA joined to bring activities that get kids outside and moving.
With parents working during the week, kids often don’t have transportation to the Y, or to schools, parks or the library.
“We’re going to the kids because a lot of them can’t come to us,” Whitfield said.
Nicole Aune, kindergarten teacher, sees students she knows from school along with siblings and friends who may soon be in her class. Teachers are greeted with waves and hugs.
The plan is to continue the program next summer.
“There are more kids in this complex who haven’t come out yet,” said Aune while visiting Cedars on 67th. “We want to reach them.”
The goal is for children to build healthy habits, such as reading and exercising when they might otherwise be staring at a screen. The hope is that those summer habits spill into the school year, Frank said.
His 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter volunteer at the events. Along with teaching younger kids to read and play, the weekly visits teach older kids to give back to their community.
“This is what the YMCA is all about,” Frank said.
Itzel Hernandez, 11, and sister Itzabeth, 9, have been coming since last year. Itzel, about to start sixth grade at Cedarcrest Middle School, said it seems like there are more exercises and games this year. She likes dodgeball. She hasn’t found a book she loves yet, but planned to look through them this week.
It’s good to see teachers in the summer, she said, and the YMCA volunteers are fun to play games with.
“It’s nice of them to come and help us read and exercise,” she said. “It’s really fun.”
The activities are set to continue this Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Cedars on 67th and 11:35 a.m. at Cedar Grove.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.