Carnival brings to close Niles summer parks program
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A fun-filled carnival marked the end to this year's City of Niles Summer Parks Program at Eastside Park in Niles on Friday.
The program, which this year started on June 13 and ended on August 6, gives children a place to play during their summer holiday while being under the supervision of salaried staff hired by the city.
In addition to activities at Cherry Street, Southside and Eastside parks, the program has also included field trips to places of interest in the Michiana area, such as Fernwood Botanical Gardens, Hackers Putt Putt and the Curious Kids Museum in St. Joseph., to name a few.
A U.S Department of Agriculture grant has enabled the city to provide free breakfast snacks and lunch to the children who participate in the program.
The Salvation Army in Niles has helped the city distribute the food.
Witherspoon is happy the city organizes the Summer Parks Program because it gives him and other children a place to play during the summer months.
Greg Davis was among the dozens of children who took part in Friday's carnival, which in addition to extra park activities such as kite-flying, jumping on an inflated play structure and a dunk tank, also included a free pizza lunch.
Davis, who also participated in last year's program, said the program is great for the children in the community because it gives them a chance to come to the city's parks and do fun things together.
His favorite park activities this summer include basketball, baseball and football.
But, he has also enjoyed the field trips to places such as the South Bend Chocolate Co. in Indiana Factory and the Galaxy Roller Rink.
Alicia Ruff is the parks director for the summer parks program and in charge of 11 program staff, many of whom are studying to become teachers.
One activity, however, has stood out as more popular than others.
Ruff said the fishing program, which is organized by the Niles City Police Department and the City, has been a great success.
The fishing program introduces the children, many of whom have never gone fishing before, to basic fishing techniques while at the same time teaching them about proper conduct in nature.
Kevin Kosten, Niles City Police Department's community reclamations officer, guided many children through their first encounter with fishing this year.
He was present at Friday's Carnival to give away a grand fishing prize consisting of a fishing pole and a tackle box donated by Niles' Wal-Mart.
He hopes the fishing program will encourage some of the children to take up fishing in the future.
Jenny Gilbert, a special education student at Central Michigan University, has worked for the city's Summer Parks program for four years.
She said being in charge of so many children can sometimes be a difficult job.
Gilbert, however, thinks the summer parks program means a lot to the children.