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Thank you Paula <McDevitt, City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department Director> and thank you to all Kid City staff, campers, and alumni for joining us here in Waldron, Hill and Buskirk Park for the celebration of Kid City’s 25th year of summer fun.

And perhaps most of all, thank you to my predecessor, Tomi Allison, who when she was mayor saw the need in the Bloomington community for all-day recreation for Bloomington families.  She envisioned an affordable, inclusive, and safe place for campers to become more active participants in their community. As a result of her vision, in 1993, Kid City was born.

This day camp for children from Kindergarten through seventh grade has continued to serve the Bloomington community throughout the past 25 years.  Over the years, Kid City has served thousands of Bloomington youth. In recent years, around 200 children each summer attend Kid City for a week or the whole season.

I’d like to ask those of you who’ve got a few grey hairs to think about the way you spent your summers when you were a kid.  For some of us, summers were spent helping out on the farm, or the family business. Others of us went off to our grandparents’ homes in other towns and states.  Still others of us spent the summer swimming at the pool or making forts in the woods. Some of us just spent a lot of time loafing.

Some of those options are still available to kids now, and others aren’t. Kids are still loafing around the house in the summer, playing a  little too much Xbox. But fewer and fewer families have a stay-at-home parent than twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, so summers can be really challenging when it comes to childcare.  And at the same time, we’re realizing that kids do better with active recreation. Now more than ever, we feel the urgency of getting kids moving, and getting them off their screens. Getting them back to nature, involved in their community, using their imagination, playing games, making things, and relating to one another.  Maybe there’s never been a time when the quality summer programming that Kid City provides has been more important.

And while it’s nice to be important, when it comes to the summertime, it’s important to be FUN!  And Kid City does this by tapping into that magic feeling that summer vacation has held out for school-age kids for generations.  Kid City channels summer’s sense of boundless possibility through organized activities that pique campers’ curiosity, prompt their explorations, fortify their sense of confidence and independence, and deepen their bonds with others.  

Kid City complements the academics these students are getting during the year with hands-on learning opportunities in their community.  Kid City campers get behind-the-scenes tours of area businesses that might appeal to them, places like the Pizza X Commissary and the cookie delivery service, Baked!  They tour museums like the Monroe County History Center, and learn about their municipal government, at City Hall.

They have other immersive educational experiences in the natural environment, the arts and crafts, and games and sports, led by the knowledgeable and engaging Parks and Recreation staff.  They climb and run and splash in city parks like this one, the Lower Cascades Park, Bryan Park and Mills Pools. Campers also get to travel outside of Bloomington weekly for fun field trips including the Indianapolis Zoo, Lucas Oil Stadium, and Conner Prairie.  They discover places they may not have encountered with their family, and bring those experiences home to share.

And all the while, campers are spending big chunks of time with people who are maybe not their core group of friends from school, but people who might be quite different from them, on the surface at least.  Thanks to the affordability of Kid City, and the scholarships that are available, people from across our city’s socio-economic spectrum go to camp. Because of the program’s longtime focus on inclusion, campers of different abilities get to know one another.

The personal growth Kid City fosters continues beyond those of camping years.  Once a camper has aged out, he or she is eligible to apply to become a counselor-in-training, an assistant counselor, and once he or she is an adult, a full-fledged counselor.   The counselors-in-training are actively taught leadership skills. The mother of one CIT told us that just the other day, when her son came home he reported, “I think I was a good leader today, mom.” He proceeded to tell her how he had modeled positive behavior for a camper who was misbehaving and managed to defuse the situation.

Kid City is helping young people become contributing, conscientious members of our community.  And it’s creating jobs.

The key piece for any parent is knowing their child will be safe and well cared for when they are not with them.  Parents sending their children to Kid City know that the program has been accredited by the American Camp Association for its quality, health and safety levels.  We are proud to report that all staff are CPR- and First Aid-certified and meet the highest professional standards established by the American Camp Association and the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department.

In other words, Kid City is not just kidstuff.  It’s a key part of our city’s social safety net--a critical option for working parents, an incubator for our young people, and a community builder. But that’s maybe just the way a grown-up sees it. What our kids know is that it’s the place to find that magic summer feeling, year after year.

We are grateful for the dedication that the Kid City staff shows to their campers, and look forward to many more years of serving the families of Bloomington and the surrounding communities.   Next, I’d like to introduce the mayor whose vision we are celebrating today, 25 years later: Tomi Allison.

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