The Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club offers a multitude of summer programs for kids that encourage active play and active thinking.
From culinary arts to arts and crafts, there are many options for kids to have fun, make friends, and be themselves.
Chief executive officer Jessie Damroth said 120 children are at the club on any given day during the summer, enjoying beach trips, playing sports, doing yoga, and gardening.
Damroth said these types of activities allow kids to exercise their bodies and minds, and develop healthy living practices.
The summer camp and other club programs run for nine weeks, all the way until the end of August.
Drop-off is at 8 am and pickup is at 5 pm, and Damroth said that sometimes when pickup time rolls around, the kids just don’t want to leave. “These kids absolutely love it here, and in a way it is a second home for some of them, a place where they can feel accepted and comfortable no matter what,” Damroth said.
One thing that is a focus of the club, Damroth said, is getting children outside as much as possible, and allowing them to partially dictate their schedules to develop independence early on.
There are different themes for each week of the summer, such as “moving and grooving,” a dance-themed week; a “talent week” to highlight the kids’ unique passions and skills, and a “water, water, everywhere,” week, when the club takes its famous trip to Water Wizz water park.
Not only are the activities a blast for kids, but each of them teach valuable life skills.
Damroth said some of the kids who come to the club beach trips don’t know how to swim, so the club provides free swim lessons.
“It’s really incredible to see a kid who has never learned to swim, and before you know it they are swimming on every trip to the beach,” Damroth said.
Another valuable service the club provides is helping kids through the twists and turns of childhood. With the “Be There” classes, young girls can receive grief counseling that helps with social and emotional stress. Damroth said the club has opened up the class to elementary school girls, and may extend the service to boys as well in the near future.
“Some of the children go through a lot at a very young age, and it is important to teach conflict resolution and how to deal with the stresses of life,” Damroth said.
The club also attempts to prevent what Damroth called “summer learning loss” by tying in reading, tutoring, and study classes with the everyday activities.
Program director Chris Roberts said the club has more full-time help now than it ever has in the past, allowing them to expand their programming.
Roberts said seeing a kid learn new skills and achieve success in any way is incredibly rewarding. “When you see a child having a lot of difficulties, and then eventually they overcome those obstacles to really come into their own, that is such a special thing to witness — a very special feeling,” Roberts said.
Mary Seveland has been working at the club since 1994 as a lifeguard, art instructor, and art program director. One of the most recognizable faces at the club, Seveland said she still loves teaching kids art just as much as the day she started.
“It is magical,” Seveland said. “Some of these kids really love art — they are in the art room all day painting or making sculptures.”
In the room adjacent to the art room, students work on homework and read books with youth development professional Mary Meyers.
Meyers said she loves working at the club because every day is different. “We are always working on different projects — some students come in and read a whole book, while others are still learning how to read and need to build a base of knowledge first,” Meyers said. “Seeing a child learn to read is like no other experience. When you see that little light bulb go off, it is absolutely wonderful.”
Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club summer camp is open Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, and is open to all club members in kindergarten through grade 7. Regular rate is $200 per week, with a free or reduced-lunch rate of $100 per week. For more information, send an email to Mallory@mvbgclub.org, or call 508-627-3303.