Central Texas children started attending the Armed Services YMCA Christmas Camp on Wednesday, a program that will provide the youngsters with plenty to do during winter break.
“As of today, and today is a slow day, we have 80 kids,” said Anionette Wiggins, child care director for the organization, on Wednesday. “It is the first day after Christmas, so it (the attendance) is going to go up. A lot of kids want to stay at home and play with their new toys today.”
By the end of the week, there will be between 250 and 300 students enrolled in the camps, which take place from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., allowing parents to drop their children off at an active and safe environment while they head to work, Wiggins said. There are three camps in Killeen, one in Belton and one in Copperas Cove.
In Cove, about 20 elementary-age children participated in the camp, and about 40 will be in the program by Friday, said Doreen Vasseur, director to the YMCA Family Center in the city.
Children participate in activities and crafts at the camps, and go outside if it is warm and enjoy playing with other children, Vasseur said. If some of the children weren’t here, they would be sitting in front of TVs at home while their parents were at work.
“This is just a better alternative,” she said.
The Cove camp technically started earlier this year, because of the bomb threats that Copperas Cove Independent School District experienced earlier this month.
YMCA leaders wanted to let parents know they were available to help with those days the campuses were closed to mitigate the threats, Vasseur said. So, the Cove YMCA facilities and staff started the camp early.
The youngest children aren’t the only people the YMCA is entertaining during school break. Both the Harker Heights Teen Center and the Copperas Cove Family Center also are open.
Teens have been visiting the center since classes ended for winter break, Vasseur said. Between 40 and 60 children visit the family center daily to play games.
While the center runs programs for teens during the summer, it is allowing those who come in during this winter break to do what they want.
“(The children) like to be able to come in and hang out with their friends,” Vasseur said. “They just want to have fun and relax ... and anything structured feels like school to them.”