As the coordinator for the White River Communities Activities Program, Erin Thim wears many hats, but she never expected fashionista to be among them.
“The joke is I design clothes for the White River School District,” Thim laughs.
WRCAP T-shirts, in a rainbow of colors, dot the halls, classrooms and playgrounds of the district’s elementary schools. With 1,292 youngsters participating in WRCAP activities during the past year, that’s quite a splash.
Thim says numbers are up and she would like to see them continue to rise.
“In the last six months we are seeing our numbers going up,” she said. She’s not sure if the increase is due to more families moving into the district or more parents and guardians wishing to see their kids active. She leans toward the later.
“We want kids to participate in more things and longer,” Thim explained. Participation, she said, sets kids up for habits that make healthier adults. “They grow up with a passion to try new things and an appreciation for staying active in life.”
In addition to healthy bodies, research is showing students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance and classroom behaviors. Participating in activities has been shown to stave off depression and build positive body image. Students also learn social skills like conflict resolution and collaboration.
In the near future, Thim would like to see WRCAP’s participation among free and reduced lunch students double to 32 percent. She would also like to turn around the drop-off she’s witnessed among fifth-grade girls.
The Community Activities Program operates as part of the White River School District. It’s a partnership, as CAP is self-funded through registration fees while the district pitches in with the areas of human resources, accounting, facilities and insurance. Staff members are district employees and all volunteers are screened with background checks.
Activities for kids from prekindergarten through fifth grade are provided all year, but the bulk of participation is sports. During the past 12 months, Thim reports total youth participants at 1,525 in the 10 sports programs. Of those young athletes, 60 percent participate in one sport and 25 percent play two or more. The biggest draw has been basketball with baseball/softball, track and indoor soccer not far behind. The largest rise in interest is in the flag football program.
The sports programs cannot function without volunteer coaches. Last year, 189 adults stepped up to mentor.
“Good volunteers are what make the program,” Thim said. “When kids have a good experience they will return. It’s good for the coaches, too.
“Being a positive adult in another kid’s life, one who isn’t your own child, is rewarding,” she added. “You can be a huge impact in their life.”
Although the sports program is a big draw, the largest areas of growth in the past 12 months have been in the Kids Club site serving Mountain Meadow and Wilkeson elementary schools, Mini Cheer Camps, Camp Rapid and Schools Out Mini Day Camp programs.
Kids Club is WRCAP’s before- and after-school program. It’s not daycare, Thim explained: it’s a structured, safe, engaging and affordable program for children. It operates from 6 a.m. until school starts and picks up again after school until 6:15 p.m. Offered at all White River elementary schools, Kids Club operates on regularly-scheduled school days, beginning with the first day of school in September, and offers extended hours on late start Mondays and early-release days.
In the past year, Kids Club drew 165 participants serving 129 families with an average daily attendance of 88.
Schools Out Mini Camps brought in 69 participants. In addition, WRCAP partners with White River High School to lead special programs which drew 566 total participants, 227 turning out for Mini Cheer Camps.
WRCAP also provides kids with opportunities in drama, including a K-12 production, and karate.
There’s no summer break for WRCAP staff. Camp Rapid, a 10-week summer day camp for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, began in June on the White River Educational Services Center campus (WRCAP’s home). Led by Nicci Richards and other district staff, some of which are dedicated White River graduates who return from college for the summer.
This year the theme is The Construction Zone. Participants spend each week working on art projects, playing games, exploring nature, reading, and conducting science experiments in the theme-related areas. Each week, the district provides school buses for field trips to places like the Pacific Science Center, Point Defiance Zoo and the Bonney Lake Theater.
Average participation each week is 44 students.
But there’s more. This fall, Thim and her staff plan to offer a preschool sports readiness program where youngsters can learn the subtle nuances of playing with other kids as a team.