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40 McKeesport kids to go to summer camp for free

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 7:03 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
LaRosa Boys & Girls Club director Jim Barry reviews a brochure for the CitiKids summer camp with Aliyah McClung, 9; Alonzo Griffin, 13; and Zaire Griffin, 8.

McKeesport children have just five days left to register for a grant-funded summer camp targeted toward urban youth.

CitiKidz, part of the Summer's Best Two Weeks retreats in the Laurel Highlands, is open to kids 8-18, and 40 fully funded spots are waiting for young McKeesporters to register thanks to an anonymous donor. The problem is only 10 have signed up, and the clock is ticking.

“What's been discouraging to me is that we hear so often that there's nothing for kids to do,” LaRosa Boys & Girls Club director Jim Barry said. “This is something for kids to do, and there's still no response.”

Barry, a McKeesport councilman, works alongside fellow coaches and youth advocates to bring after-school and summer programming to kids from McKeesport and one club supporter, whose donations in excess of $20,000 remain anonymous, took his generosity a step further to give kids access to something he thought would be a beneficial program, Barry explained.

Summer's Best Two Weeks programs have been instilling Christian character and values through competitive sports camps since 1966. In 1969, the CitiKidz extension began as an urban camping ministry targeted toward Pittsburgh youth. Today, it reaches hundreds of campers each year from urban communities across the country.

“This will provide kids the opportunity to go to an overnight camp and experience things they may not otherwise experience, like canoeing, rock climbing and a lot of outdoor sports,” Barry said. “It's a beautiful outdoor setting. It's absolutely gorgeous.”

While they share common activities, there are separate boys and girls camps, divided by a wooded area. Each camp has separate facilities.

“When most people want to send their kids to an ‘away camp,' the two biggest obstacles are cost and transportations,” Barry said. “This anonymous donor has covered both of those things: the busing to get kids to and from the camp, as well as the tuition. There are no obstacles, no excuses.”

The camp is seeking local adults to volunteer as chaperones.

“For every 10 kids who attend the camp, we should have an intermediary to work the camp and stay with the kids in the facilities,” Barry said. “There's a cost associated with that that our donor is also going to pick up. These people could be parents of the children or community volunteers.”

For more information or to register, contact Barry at 412-678-7070. Details about Summer's Best Two Weeks and CitiKidz are available online at sb2w.org.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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