If you go
• What: Summer Playground Program, Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation for children ages 5 to 11 who live in the boundaries of either Orchards Elementary or Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary schools. Fifty kids at Orchards Park, 50 kids at Evergreen Park can participate in structured, supervised play. Event includes a hot lunch and a snack.
• When: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, July 1-Aug. 16.
• Where: Orchards Community Park, 9800 N.E. 54th St. and Evergreen Park, 3500 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.
• Cost: Free.
• Register: Call 360-487-7100 or stop by the Marshall Community Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd.
• Information at city of Vancouver website
Four additional free, drop-in programs that don't require pre-registration, from July 1 through Aug. 16. Free lunches provided the first 15 minutes.
• 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday: Oakbrook Park, 3103 N.E. 99th St.
• 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday: John Ball Park, 901 W. 23rd St.
• 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday: Hearthwood Park, 801 N.E. Hearthwood Blvd.
• 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday: Jaggy Road Park, 4500 N.E. 72nd Ave.
On the Web: City of Vancouver website
After experiencing an "aha" moment, Candace Young felt called to action.
During a Community Foundation for Southwest Washington board meeting, she heard about the need for a kids summer playground program at Orchards Community Park. However, due to budget cuts, the program couldn't be funded.
As a result, 50 kids — mostly from low-income households — might spend the summer cooped up indoors staring at television or computer screens instead of enjoying seven weeks of supervised outdoor fun with activities, games, crafts and a hot lunch.
"The parks programs have had some significant cuts in the last year or two," said Young, 65. "When I heard about this need in Orchards, I wanted to find out more. It's something that lit me up."
The Vancouver resident recalls being a single working mother stretching limited dollars and finding fun, free activities for her kids during summer vacations. Now a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst with a private practice in Portland, she holds a Ph.D. in psychology. A portion of her practice involves working with children.
"Kids need a chance to play outside in the summer," Young said.
She called her children, Margaret Gorman, 32, and Peter Gorman, 28.
"We do a lot of decision-making together about family philanthropy," Young said. "We met with people from parks and rec and we were sold on the program.
"It gives kids a safe place to go where they can be outside, do fun things and be supervised. They'll have a hot lunch provided by Share."
Young's daughter, Margaret, a middle school teacher, said, "They have a very good staff-to-child ratio. Lots of supervision."
"The economy is tough. Tax rolls are down," said her brother, Peter Gorman, a political campaign professional. "It's appropriate for private citizens to step in and fill the need."
Young and her children donated $15,500 to pay for the program.
"It seemed they were doing a lot for that amount of money," Young said. "You get a lot of bang for your buck."
The summer playground program at Orchards Community Park "is adjacent to the VHA's Orchard Glen and Share's Orchard Inn — facilities that provide temporary and/or transitional housing for low-income and homeless," said Cheri Martin, executive director of the Parks Foundation of Clark County. "We received letters of support and endorsement for the project from Syble Crow with the VHA and Diane McWithy of Share. This program will truly serve some of our children the most in need of a summer playground program and free lunch."
Evergreen Park has a similar program offering seven weeks of supervised activities and a healthy meal provided by Share. That program is entirely funded through donations. Corporate donations from the Audigy Group, Beaches Restaurant and Bar, Comcast, the United Way and Walmart provided $13,000. A plea from Mayor Tim Leavitt during the State of the City address prompted generous individual donations. The remainder of the $15,000 total was funded by grant awards from the Candace Young Advised Fund and Jan and Steve Oliva Charitable Fund, funds of the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.
"No city or county funds are associated with running either program at Orchards Park or Evergreen Park," said Dave Perlick, recreation services manager for Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation. "As we've gone through these budget reductions, it's been a bit of an evolution."
Budget cuts affect kids
In 2011, Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation offered five playground program sites at Hough, Image, Minnehaha and Washington elementary schools and at Evergreen Park. Each site had a program similar to what is being offered at Orchards and Evergreen Park this summer: a four-hour program each weekday with a free lunch provided through a USDA grant. The average daily attendance was about 60 children at each site, serving a total of about 300 children and costing about $95,000, Perlick said.
After 2012 budget cuts, the program was redesigned to a smaller, shorter program costing $35,000 and saving $60,000 annually. The summer playground programs at Orchards Community Park and Evergreen Park each have space for 50 children ages 5 through 11 who live within the boundaries of either Orchards Elementary or Roosevelt Elementary schools. There's no cost to families, but pre-registration is required.
"Kids lose their social and academic skills over the summer," Young said. "We wanted to do some kind of intervention to help bridge those summer months."
Margaret Gorman added, "We want to encourage other families to give."