OKRA camp is a summer day camp providing youth ages 6-8 and 9-11 a week-long opportunity to participate in structured indoor and outdoor recreation activities.
Registration opens on April 14 at 8 a.m.
Todd Davis, camp director, said there have been some changes including new scholarships that will be offered to students.
“This year we have 60 scholarships available; 30 per week and 10 per age group. The scholarship program allows those with severe financial need to apply for camp through an eligibility system. Once the application term ends, participants are randomly drawn and notified,” said Davis.
“These children will be admitted to OKRA Camp free of charge. In order to scholarship OKRA camp participants, we need to raise $5,000. If there are community members or local businesses wanting to ensure OKRA camp continues to allow all children the opportunity to enjoy recreational games and activities at DSU, please consider donating or sponsoring an OKRA camper,” said Davis.
During camp the kids are asked which activities they enjoyed the most and according to Davis, from the past 4 years, surveys indicate that kayaking, dodge ball, and archery are among the top favorite activities.
“I like to see the kids just play and be on campus. It’s refreshing to have 6-year-olds running around DSUs campus playing games,” he said.
Davis said he believes it’s important to expose kids to activities and games that promote physical practice rather than staying inside and playing video games.
“I think OKRA camp provides all kids the opportunity to play and camp exposes our youth to games and activities to be learned through practice and gameplay. OKRA camp gets our kids off the couch and actually playing the games authentically—not through game units and online realms.”
Davis added that some kids play outdoor games on gaming devices rather than the physical games themselves and it’s important to get kids outside and active.
“It’s always funny for me to see kids playing basketball and soccer and other ‘real’ games on their devices, from their couches, at home with no friends! OKRA camp gets our kids out, playing real games, with real people, on real terrain in the real world. Our local kids need to be exposed to all facets of recreation, sportsmanship, and social interaction. OKRA camp is helping with an anecdotal diagnosis called, ‘Nature Deficit Disorder,’” he explained.
Davis added he has changed through OKRA camp because of the opportunity to see kids grow through the outdoor activities.
“I have been able to see first-hand how kids react to having fun gameplay opportunities provided for them. They love activity and gameplay when it is provided in a fun, enthusiastic and educationally structured way,” he said.
Davis also said he has been able to work with students involved in youth recreation as well as continue working in his field of recreation; a subject he teaches at DSU.
“OKRA camp has allowed my recreation leadership at DSU the opportunity for program candidates to work with youth and be involved in youth recreation, which is a growing field. OKRA camp allows me to still be involved in physical education aspects and youth programming while still being involved in my field of recreation,” he said.
Davis has high hopes for the camp and for the campers. When asked how this camp could put a dent in childhood obesity that is so high in the Delta, Davis said, "OKRA Camp can make a tiny dent, but the dent won’t last unless parents adopt healthy lifestyles and provide healthy eating habits at home. Research supports the correlation of youth obesity to youth eating habits plus low youth activity rates. Sadly, parents are contributing to the ‘growing’ problem in the Delta by providing their children with unhealthy food choices like high-sugar sodas, candy, and fast food and food with nearly zero nutrient value."
Davis said it's important for parents and families to adopt healthy eating habits but also to promote active lifestyles.
"I’m certain a child will eat healthy foods if those healthy foods are adopted and embraced by the family. Another aspect contributing the youth obesity epidemic is the lack of physical exercise and active lifestyles. OKRA camp simply exposes our area youth to all kinds of games and activities, but unless these games and activities are consistently played and participated in, kids will lose interest and go back to playing with the computer games on the couch in the house with a bag of chips — sad! There is a parental responsibility component missing, and it’s not just the Delta," said Davis.
"This is a nationwide problem of epidemic proportions. OKRA camp won’t make a dent big enough to make changes unless parents start playing with their kids or providing opportunities for their kids to play with other kids in our parks or local school playgrounds. Kids can’t make changes without their parents parenting them," he added.
While Davis believes parents play a huge role in getting their kids active, he has seen transformations through OKRA camp.
"I’ve seen some kids in our area be more involved in recreation programs. However, I would like to see our parks and recreation programming embrace more alternative recreation programming for youth like, archery, dodge ball games and tournaments, ultimate disc/Frisbee games for youth, more tennis and golf programming and other non-traditional games for youth to participate in rather than just softball, soccer, football, and basketball, he said.
Davis added that team sports are great but typically cater to skilled athletes. By implementing more individual sports or different sports, Davis believes more children would be active and interested in getting involved.
"These sports are great, but they are losing interest amongst kids in our region, and nationwide. Team sports typically cater to the skilled athletes but not all kids are skilled athletes, and we need to do a better job of providing recreational and physical outlets for all kids with all kinds of possibilities. OKRA camp does this well, but it only lasts a week. A week will not make a dent big enough to change a culture."
To get more information about OKRA camp visit www.deltastate.edu
To get involved in the Cleveland Park Commission call (662) 846-6605.