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Cash’s Visit Caps K-8 Summer Camp

Event for MASD students was free of cost

By Siana Emery
The Tube City Almanac
July 18, 2021
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport Area High School Stadium was a frenzy of activity on Thursday as family, friends and community members came out to celebrate their campers at the closing ceremonies of the Let’s S.H.I.N.E. Discovery Camp, sponsored by the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation.

The partnership with the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation allowed for the district to run a full-day summer camp for the first time. The summer camp ran from June 7 to July 15 and was free of cost to McKeesport Area School District students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The culminating event of the afternoon was the distribution of new backpacks, stocked with fresh school supplies for the upcoming school year, to every camper present, and a special message from Swin Cash, a McKeesport native who is a former WNBA player.

“As a McKeesport native, I am super excited to see the Dick’s Foundation celebrating young athletes,” said Cash. “Dick’s is doing a phenomenal job and making a huge difference.”

A reflection of the last six weeks, Thursday’s closing activities were high-energy. Dick’s representatives, student ambassadors from McKeesport Area High School and other volunteers ran an obstacle course, dancing and face painting on the infield of the track, while elsewhere campers and their families were taking advantage of a photo booth.

Attendees were also treated to their choice of four food trucks — Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Graeter’s Ice Cream, Burgh Bites and Cool Beans Taco.

The summer camp was a collaboration between the McKeesport Area School District and the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation. Approximately 350 kids registered for the camp, with an average of about 200 to 250 kids per week. The camp focused on introducing kids to a wide-range of activities they otherwise may not be exposed to, while also promoting team building and personal growth.

“We had (physical education) programming, we had STEAM activities, we had Venture Outdoors come out and do Geocaching and fishing, P3R came out and did a mini fun-run with the kids, Camp Hayward came out and visited, we had the community police and fire department come out,” said Colleen Wilson, Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation Community and Corporate Relations Manager, explaining some of the activities provided. “We had a really good six weeks.”

The camp took advantage of local resources, taking field trips to destinations such as the Children’s Museum, the Carnegie Science Center, the Zoo and local pools. Additionally, outside speakers came to talk to the kids, such as representatives from Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams.

From building curriculums to schedules and everything in between, staff members only had five weeks to put the entire summer program together.

“In five short weeks, we were able to pull of a marvelous program, where students were able to engage and interact with their community,” said Brandy Daye, the assistant principal of Twin Rivers Elementary School and the camp director.

Daye said that when planning the program, those involved wanted to expose campers to new experiences and places throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area, to “give them that exposure they aren’t necessarily used to getting.

“Just seeing [the kids] being happy and having fun, and being able to experience things that they aren’t typically able to do was amazing,” said Daye. “I feel like we transformed some kids.”

The program featured leadership from McKeesport Area School District employees as well as representatives from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation. There also were a number of Student Ambassadors, McKeesport High School students who aided in programming and participated in a mentoring component with the older campers.

“The most rewarding thing is seeing the smiles on the kids faces every single day. It’s something I don’t see as much in the classroom,” Mike Tomaino, a teacher at Twin Rivers Elementary School, who was the physical education programmer for the duration of the camp, said. “In a place that isn’t always the safest, this is a safe space.”

Siana Emery is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh’s South Hilltop. She has also written for The Mennonite World Review, Goshen College Communications and Marketing and The Goshen College Record. She may be reached at sianaemery@gmail.com.

Originally published July 18, 2021.

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