Lake Temescal overflowed with smiles and laughter on Friday as nearly 700 local kids from the Berkeley-Albany YMCA participated in the third annual Carnival Day.
Merging a number of the YMCA’s summer camp programs, the day-long event included relay races, face painting, tug-of-war, safety tips from the Oakland Police Department and even a presentation by a group of Japanese drummers.
Organizers of the carnival stressed the importance of bringing kids from throughout the community together for a day of learning, excitement and fun.
“We want to show these kids that they are a part of something larger,” said Tom Ratcliff, a board member with the Berkeley-Albany YMCA. “We think that with a day like this kids are stretched. They have an opportunity to meet new friends, to learn about themselves and to explore.”
Among the YMCA programs participating in the carnival were the south Berkeley YMCA’s Learning Academy, a program that provides hands-on science education, and the local Head Start programs for kids five and younger.
At the day’s face painting booth, a popular spot, Elvin Torrian and Duchess Howlett of the south Berkeley Head Start decided on two very patriotic designs. Inspired by the summer’s blockbuster movie, Torrian went with a Spiderman design while Howlett chose a red, white and blue butterfly.
Though the carnival’s events focused on the kids, counselors from the different programs enjoyed the day in the sun as well.
“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” said Brian Hickman, a counselor with the Explorers, a group of fourth- and fifth-grade campers at the Albany YMCA. “You get the opportunity to do a lot of things you wouldn’t normally do during the summer. I’ve enjoyed it,”
As a part of the day’s education theme, Officer Herman Waller of the Oakland Police Department provided campers with safety tips for crossing the street and even allowed kids to take a tour of his patrol car.
“This is the only time I want to see you guys in the back of a cop car,” Waller commented.
According to Waller, the safety presentations, organized by the department’s community services division, allow kids to get to know police officers and help eliminate the fear many associate with the force.
The candy-necklace station, another hot spot at the carnival, provided kids with a creative task.
“I’ve made them before but this is something hard,” said six-year-old Noah Blankenship of the Albany YMCA’s kinder-cub division.
“This is way different than being in the classroom and I like my counselor,” declared Naomi Jacobsen, also of the kinder-cub division. Jacobsen added that receiving stickers provided by the boat race station and knocking down the juices were among her favorite activities.
Though many of the YMCA’s activities have an educational or creative focus, organizers hope that the summer campers simply have fun.
Ebonee Harden, a counselor with the Learning Academy, says the educational programs at the south Berkeley YMCA allow campers to enjoy learning. She stressed that instructors use a hands-on approach. “We encourage an active participation and provide them with arts and crafts activities, language programs, mathematics. Things that will help them during the school year,” Harden said.
Along with creating a fun learning environment, directors at the Berkeley-Albany YMCA stress the importance of providing financial assistance to local families. According to Vicki Bozzone, communications director with the Berkeley-Albany office, the YMCA offers a Y Scholars Program for deserving children. In addition, Head Start, a federally funded program, offers educational support to children five and younger from needy families.
According to Bozzone, the YMCA also partners with UC Berkeley, Berkeley High School and the Rotary Club among others to bring additional educational services to the community.