Community Center will bring youth program back in fall
Story and photo gallery by Martha Quetsch
ELBURNâ€”Friday Knightlife, a youth recreation program that started last fall at the Elburn & Countryside Community Center, was so popular that its organizers plan to offer it again.
The twice-monthly program for fourth- and fifth-graders started in early November and concluded April 23.
About 50 children signed up initially, and gradually, the program has gained many additional participants.
â€œAs the word got out, more kids would sign up. Kids found out they had a good time, so more kids would come the next time,â€ said coordinator Bill Brauer. â€œThere have been a lot more new faces in the last few months.â€
â€œIt’s kind of a fun night and we’d like to make it bigger,â€ Brauer said. â€œWe’ll bring it back in October.
Last fall, he distributed flyers through the two Elburn elementary schools, John Stewart and Blackberry Creek, announcing the program that would meet every other Friday for six months, from 6 to 8:50 p.m., in the community center gymnasium.
â€œThis is three hours of fun, do what you want,â€ he said. â€œIt is an opportunity for them to get out and just be kids.â€
Brauer is on the Community Center’s board of directors. He started the Friday Knightlife program because it would be good for the kids and would benefit the community center.
â€œWhen we were looking at things to do to keep the community center going, I noticed Friday night was a night when the gym sat vacant,â€ Brauer said.
He noted that other communities offer similar programs, such as North Aurora, where he lives.
â€œSo I kicked it around at one of our board meetings, and said what if we do kind of a (pre)teen night, and everybody loved the idea,â€ he said.
Brauer said the program gives children something to do during the months when often the weather outside isn’t good, and it’s dark in early evening.
From the beginning, he and other program organizers made sure to offer recreation that participants were interested in.
â€œWe kind of tailored it to what they want,â€ he said. â€œIn the beginning they wanted to play a lot of Nerf touch football in the gym, so we let them do that.â€
He said that early on, he held a couple of â€œpow-wowsâ€ with participants and asked them, ‘What do you guys like doing? What do you not want to do, because I’m not going to tell you what to do-you’re the ones that will be playing for three hours.â€™â€
He did steer clear of offering many video games, because children can play those at home.
â€œWe wanted to offer them something different,â€ Brauer said.
The fee was $45, or about $3 per program, which helped pay for games and other recreation-related expenses. Program activities have included floor hockey, basketball, Frisbee tosses, obstacle courses, air hockey, and the Guitar Hero game.
Refreshments also are part of every evening, such as Paisano’s pizza for a dollar a slice, plus soda or water.
James Leyden, 10, was at the Community Center every night the program was offered. He likes the chance to eat pizza and to play air hockey, pool and Guitar Hero, but most of all, to socialize.
â€œMy favorite part is hanging with my friends,â€ said James, who attends John Stewart Elementary.
On Friday night, Alina O’Connor was sitting at a table making bracelets with her friends, one of the crafts she has enjoyed on program nights. She does not have any siblings at home, so the program is a chance for her to be with other kids after school.
Alina, a John Stewart student, has had so much fun that she hopes to join the program again this fall.
â€œIt’s just too cool,â€ Alina said.