Evelyn Wilson says the Hammond Parks Summer Program has been extremely beneficial for her three special needs children.
Wilson says the program provides breakfast, lunch and fun activities including games, arts and crafts, in a safe supervised environment. The children learn acceptance, Wilson says.
“All ages, all colors, all abilities, all play together,” Wilson, who has been a program volunteer in the past, says. “They have special speakers.”
Wilson says it is good for the children to get fresh air and participate in outdoor activities. She says all the children learn to get along no matter what their race or their ability. Wilson says the friendships forged during the summer program carried over to school.
“The children they met in the summer program would stick up for them at school as a buddy,” Wilson says. “They would all take care of each other.”
Wilson praises the city and parks department for the program and its benefits.
“l am glad for the opportunity for the city to have a program to help kids especially after school lets out,” Wilson says. “It was free of charge. The experience makes them better students.”
Wilson says her children would bring chalk home and play hop scotch with neighbors.
“It makes a better block and the neighbors learn something new,” Wilson says. “It makes the community even better. Everybody gets along on the block.”
The Hammond summer recreation program runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. It includes sports, games and field trips. The free breakfast and lunches are provided by the School City of Hammond.
Hammond Parks Recreation Director Gabby Gallegos says there are 350 children enrolled in the summer program which is offered at Pulaski, Irving Columbia, Harrison, Turner (People’s Park), Riverside and Hessville Parks.
“I think the interaction is important,” Gallegos says. “They are all playing together, ages 5 to 12, and are all learning from each other. We try to teach the importance of socializing with each other. We also stress the importance of respect. We try to keep the kids actively involved with sports. It is not necessarily like being in school but we have rules they follow.”
Gallegos says the pools at Pulaski and Hessville Parks are very popular drawing many children to the summer programs at the two sites.
Gallegos says Hessville Park has the most participants with Pulaski Park second in attendance.
Gallegos says mini parties are in the planning stages and will focus on parent involvement.
“We really want to focus on parents being involved as much as possible so they know what their kids are doing,” Gallegos says.