The Petrolia Topic article published July 18, 2017. Article in full pasted below.
Melissa Shilz, Postmedia Network
This summer marks the fifth year of the Inwood Kids Program, a rural summer camp run through the Central Lambton Family Health Team and other partners like the Oil Heritage District Community Centre. The program has something for all ages, and children as young as one and up to the age of 15 can attend.
Sarah Milner, Executive Director of CLFHT, grew up in the small community and knew something was needed for the youth living there once school was out. With no public transport system in place and limited resources, they developed a plan to offer youth a program that would encourage healthy and active lifestyles, but she said the program runs deeper than just giving kids something fun to do.
“Initially it was kind of a way to start outreach and to form that relationship here in a more informal way,” she said. “We want to help people get the services they need – counseling or health…it’s as much about the parents as it is the kids.”
Since they began the program, they’ve seen the number of kids attending increase. A report by the Family Health Team also found that 22 per cent of the kids had no other summer activities that they participated in.
“For some of these kids, this is their big thing for their summer,” she said.
Milner said with Inwood being such a rural area, the program aims to prevent isolation, keep youth active and offer them activities for development. For those kids living in smaller towns, it gives them a chance to socialize without the worry of traveling to a bigger town. It also gives parents an opportunity to engage with healthcare practitioners and ask questions.
While in previous years the program has ran for three weeks in the afternoons, this year it has been expanded to five weeks after the Alvinston Optimists gave a donation of $1000. Each year they’ve had different sponsors backing the program, including the County of Lambton, but the Optimists are planning on making it a permanent fixture in their budget.
Optimist President Marjorie Cumming said she only wish they knew about the program sooner – they would have given funding from the start.
“Now we’ve got them on the list for every year,” she said.
Optimist Tom Park said when they heard about the program, they jumped on board to help right away. He said they support a number of programs in the area, and even offer scholarships to Brooke-Alvinston students heading off to college or university.
“We do whatever we can to support our youth and youth programs,” he said. “It’s what we do…we give things to the community that the kids can use.”