The shady yard of the Frederiksted Boys and Girls Club buffered the heat Saturday while children of all ages played and adults socialized and cooked at the annual Boys and Girls Clubs Day for Kids.
“We’re encouraging kids to get outside and get active,” said O’Neil Canton, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Virgin Islands. The event coincided with the Nickelodeon Channel’s Worldwide Day of Play.
In the yard children enjoyed a bouncy house, games of tug of war, sack races, three-legged races and face painting. Inside, Rotarians cooked chicken and johnny cakes and older kids played pool and listened to music.
The main attraction was a tae kwon do demonstration by a group of students from the Christiansted BGC. They showed their expertise in stretching, kicking and self defense and several individuals demonstrated their skills.
Grand Master Richard Mitchell teaches the class of about 80 BGC members, 5 to 18 years old, in Christiansted twice a week. About a dozen students participated in Saturday’s demonstration.
“We have the best instructor at the Boys and Girls Club, “ said Mitchell, who called himself the best instructor on the island due to his status as the oldest, most senior and highest ranking teacher. During his presentation, Mitchell explained the students’ actions, and told the crowd that if students use martial arts outside the classroom they will be expelled from the program.
The purpose of the event was to attract parents and kids, Canton said. Tara Nelson was one of the few parents on hand. Her youngest son, Nathan,7, is a tae kwon do student at the Christiansted club. His older brother, Careem, 13 likes to play basketball and DJ at the club. Careem said he also “likes to help little children with homework.”
Since she is active in the community, her children would be home alone after school without the Boys and Girls Club, Nelson said.
“The mentoring system is very great and they have a strong background in discipline,” Nelson said.
Nelson has been volunteering at the club since she was lost her government job in the spring. She grilled hamburgers Saturday and cooked and worked in the concession during the summer to help raise money for the organization.
Rotary West sponsored the Day for Kids and members cooked for more than 125 kids and parents. According to Rotary West president, Lloyd Daniel, members have worked with the Frederiksted Boys and Girls Club for more than 20 years. Recently, Rotary West renovated the kitchen, installing new plumbing, cabinets and sinks. In the past, they have painted the building and cleaned up the grounds.
Daniel said they need volunteers and new members to help with donations of time and or money.
Canton also needs volunteers and cash donations. He is looking for retired teachers, junior and senior high and college students to help with the after-school program.
To increase enrollment in Frederiksted, he also needs help with after-school transportation from Alexander Henderson and St. Patrick’s elementary schools. Arrangements have been made with Claude O. Markoe Elementary School to drop off kids after school, but nothing has been worked out with the other schools yet.
Boys and Girls Clubs are open from 2 to 6 p.m. during the week and enrollment is between $25 and $50 a year. The Christiansted club has about 100 children every day and Canton hopes to get the enrollment in Frederiksted up to 50. The St. Thomas club serves 40-45 youth, he said.
The BGC after-school programs teach anti-bullying, reading comprehension, computer use, money matters and tae kwon do. There are national Torch Club and Keystone Club programs for 11-18 year olds. Students also take walking tours to the waterfront and historic sites.
Canton said BGC plans to begin tae kwon do classes in Frederiksted soon. The martial arts students must join the BGC and buy their own uniforms, but the training is free.