By Julie Krienke
Children in the community of Delano have enjoyed countless afternoons at area parks thanks to the Fun in the Sun (FITS) program, which returned this summer for its sixth consecutive year.
FITS is a recreational program that promotes outdoor activities for local children by utilizing municipal parks in Delano.
According to Luke Fischer, who does much of the behind-the-scenes work for the program, FITS was started by the city in 2005 to increase awareness about the local parks in Delano. The program is under the direction of the city council and the park and rec committee.
“The city decided to do a program that wasn’t going to be formal recreation,” Fischer said. “They wanted to find more creative ways to use community parks, and that was the primary focus of the program when it started.”
According to Cody Krieg, coordinator of the event, the group attends a new park everyday of the week. Krieg became involved in organizing the daily activities and getting children involved in the program about three years after it started.
“It is nice because each park has different things,” Krieg said. “It keeps it not so consistent, doing the same things everyday. It’s a little more fun because we can do more things at different parks.”
This year, the program was six weeks long, beginning June 7 through June 24, and then continuing July 2 through July 29. Activities take place Monday through Thursday from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.
“This year, we started right after graduation,” Krieg said. “We went for three weeks and then took a week off for the Fourth of July. We went again for the last three weeks of July.”
According to Krieg, the program is free to children living in Delano. Parents must simply turn in a registration form for their child to participate in the program.
“I think it’s really beneficial for parents because they can come drop their kids off,” Krieg said. “They know that their kids will have fun.”
Everyday, FITS presents a new activity to children. According to Krieg, events usually consist of outdoor games such as tag, kickball, and sometimes even arts and crafts. Krieg said they also have sidewalk chalk for the children who do not wish to participate in the games.
“We ask them if they have requests for games,” Krieg said. “A couple years ago, it was mostly the kids from the neighborhood we were in, but now we have a lot of kids that come everyday to each park.”
According to Krieg, the program is always open for suggestions to keep activities fresh for children attending.
“We haven’t done it this year, but we do sometimes try to bring in water balloons and do games and tosses,” Krieg said. “In the past years, we have has the fire truck come for the kids to look at the inside of the truck.”
For Krieg, seeing the children is what she enjoys most about the job.
“It’s just so much fun, and we get a lot of the same kids year after year,” Krieg said. “It’s fun to see some familiar faces year after year. We have a pretty consistent group of 10 to 15 kids that come everyday.”
This year, events have taken place at Central Park, Parkview Hills Park, Woods Creek Park, and Woodland Meadows.
“I think the kids have a lot of fun,” Krieg said. “It is beneficial for the kids because they can play outside and play with other kids. They get to go to parks that they may not necessarily go to.”
Besides Krieg, who is currently a junior in college, three other students who recently graduated from Delano High School work with the FITS program. John Max, Emily Dennis, and Jake Raskob assist Krieg in running activities at the surrounding parks.
“When I started working, I was just looking for a part-time summer job,” Krieg said. “I wanted a good opportunity to work with kids, and I have so much fun that it doesn’t feel like a job.”
With helpers who are fresh out of high school, it may be easier for children to connect with supervisors during activities.
“The kids have fun trying to compete with us,” Krieg said. “We are their peers that they can look up to.”
According to Krieg, a large group of children come to the park each day, and they vary in age range. For outdoor events, coordinators often split the children up into groups according to age.
“We try to keep it more for the elementary school age,” Krieg said. “It’s easiest if we have kids going into kindergarten, so they can get a feel for the game.”
FITS has seen substantial growth in the past year when it comes to attendance. According to Krieg, when she started working with the program three years after it began, there were only two helpers and an average of 10 children a day.
“This year was the biggest jump because some days we have gotten over 40 kids,” Krieg said. “I was really surprised. It’s really fun to see it grow so much and have parents tell other parents.”
Since 2005, the FITS program has been extremely successful and beneficial to the community of Delano.
“The program has grown phenomenally since it started,” Fischer said. “It has been something that the community is proud of.”
Coordinators of FITS hope to keep the program strong for the future. According to Krieg, they always welcome new children to attend the activities.
For more information about the FITS program or to get your child involved in next year’s activities, visit the city’s website at www.delano.mn.us or contact the Delano City Hall.