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Youth center to open as YMCA summer day camp

A joint venture using public resources and private business will mean the town youth center will be used for the first time in three summers.

The Niagara Falls Family YMCA will open a summer day camp on Monday to offer a variety of programs and activities in the center, at 2800 Church Road, which has been closed for the past two summers because of high utility costs.

Camp Director Molly Gurman said parents can still sign up their youngsters for the camp, which will have programs running from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to accommodate working families through Sept. 2.

About 15 children are signed up for the initial week, but at an open house Wednesday night, Gurman said she anticipated much more.

"They're always busy with activities here. They take activities home. They're always involved," she said.

The children will be divided into small groups, according to age, and will be attended by certified staff. Gurman is assisted by "Miss Nicole" Brady, a young explorers counselor, and "Mr. Ben" Hocking, the senior counselor. Older children can take a leader-in-training or counselor-in-training course and end up working for the Y, she said.

A tour of the facility began with a secure reception area that allows no visitors who don't show proper identification. The front office is equipped with video surveillance equipment. Alarms on the front and back doors notify staff if they are opened.

Each of the program rooms sport a different theme for age-appropriate activities for the campers, who can range from 3 to 12 years old. One room for the younger set is complete with preschool offerings such as a play kitchen while the room across the hall is designed with older children in mind with two pool tables, a ping-pong table, air hockey, a foosball table and a table hockey game.

A mess room does double duty for arts and crafts and snacks. The "video" room is actually a large lounge area filled with comfortable, modern furniture and paintings of film, reels, and popcorn on the wall designed by a Niagara University student. Gurman said a flat-screen television is to be installed soon.

"Only appropriate movies will be shown for a group. We'll show a scene from 'Finding Nemo' and then talk about what it means," she explained about the participation.

Literacy will be stressed with the children taking part in various activities such as writing the alphabet with shaving cream or looking for objects on a nature hike that begin with the same first letter as their names.

The gym, which is the heart of the center, is divided in two and set for basketball, soccer, badminton, tennis, volleyball, and playing with a large parachute -- on the floor of course, Gurman said. The team sports allow children to learn the importance of teamwork and also teach them the significance of rules.

No camp is complete without the treasured field trip, which Gurman said will be scheduled for every Thursday. Planned for the summer are excursions to Skateland, the movies, Beaver Island, Fort Niagara, the Buffalo Zoo, and Martin's Fantasy Island. Also on tap is swimming at Payne Memorial Pool in North Tonawanda. Transportation is provided.

According to the deal made with the Town Board, Wheatfield residents will be charged a special rate of $125 per week and non-residents, $150. Financial assistance is available. For information or to sign up, visit, or call 285-8491. The board arranged the project after being approached by the YMCA a couple of months ago. To use the facility, the Y pays the utilities and a portion of the camp fees to the town based on enrollment. The board had closed the center during summer months to save money on electricity costs.