Here’s a WILD idea: Go outside this summer

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Kids who went to last year’s Wild Wild Rec got to see a raptor hawk up close. (File)

By LEANA DICKERSON
For the Keizertimes

Looking for something unique to do this summer? Talk about grassroots efforts and exciting activities right here in the Keizer community. Wild Wild Rec is a summer program run in three different parks throughout Keizer.

What started as a dream of Keizer Parks Foundation President Vickie Hilgemann has transformed to a community-based program that encourages fun, active, and healthy lifestyles. Hilgemann remembered her childhood, when she’d spend her days playing outside with other children in the park.

“Kids today have less opportunity to do so with the pressures of life,” Hilgemann said. Her goal was to develop this program in Keizer to help get kids outside and having fun with good role models.

With the many neighborhood parks in Keizer, it is a great resource to be able to provide programming within them during the warmer months. Keizer Parks Operations Supervisor Terry Witham says that Wild Wild Rec fills a niche.

“(Recreation) has been sadly absent from the City of Keizer’s Parks Department for as long as I can remember,” Witham said. “Recreation was something we desired to do, but had no funding or manpower available to implement.”

The program is a partnership between  Keizer Parks Foundation, Keizer Rotary, the City of Keizer, and the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties, and is now on its third year running events for youth.

In order to participate, youth must acquire a membership to the Boys & Girls Club by turning in an application and the $5 membership fee. With the membership card they receive, youth can attend the Wild Wild Rec program any day they like, as well as all of the clubhouses in Salem and Keizer.  If a youth already has a membership to the Boys & Girls Club, they need simply to arrive at the site to participate.

Staff meet youth in the parks Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. beginning June 26and ending August 16. On Tuesdays, a travel trailer full of activities and fun arrives at Bob Newton Park close to Gubser Elementary School. Wednesdays it can be found at Chalmers-Jones Park at City Hall, and Thursdays at Ben Miller Park near Claggett Creek Middle School.

Staff-run activities range from art projects to outdoor active games, as well as presentations each day including a visit from a Salem-Keizer Volcanoes’ baseball player, a raptor from Turtle Ridge Wildlife Refuge, and Mardi Smith with her outdoor lanes from Town and Country Lanes. On Wednesdays, when the group meets at Chalmers-Jones Park, the splash pad is scheduled to be up and running during warm weather.

For more information about the project or how to support the efforts of these groups, please contact Keizer Branch Coordinator Jessica Pietrok at (503) 304-1313 or visit wildwildrec.com. To print out an application to the Boys & Girls Club for membership, visit bgc-salem.org or any location of the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties.

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