It’s going to be a busy summer for Youthville kids, who will be involved with games, horses, art and plenty of exercise and fun at the Dodge City residential campus.
“We have 57 children ages 7 to 18 here now,” said Leonard Schroder, director of special projects at Youthville, a psychiatric treatment center for abused, abandoned and neglected children and their families.
The Youthville mission for the 37 boys and 20 girls now residing on campus is “Giving Children Back Their Childhood.” A staff of 107 professionals works daily at the facility to fulfill that mission.
“We try to accomplish our goals as a team and teach the kids to work together as a team,” said activities director Melanie Snodgrass, whose husband, Jason, is a unit supervisor at Youthville.
Youthville activities begin June 1 with summer school for one month and arts and crafts twice a week for eight weeks. For the Walk-a-Mile Project, the staff has donated shoes, "which the kids will decorate any way they choose to represent their life in the Youthville system,” Snodgrass said.
Cottage activity periods develop social skills through team games once a week. Participants will walk a low balance beam and wind through a maze-like web while holding hands, trying not to touch the web.
Residents of Youthville’s five cottages also are involved in the intramural sports program, playing summer softball four nights a week. The youth are responsible for mowing and raking the softball field.
“Other sports will include flag football, volleyball and basketball,” said Snodgrass, who has worked at Youthville for eight years. Residents also will engage in a “Power Hour” six nights a week either in the gymnasium or outside.
“The Power Hour is physical activity; the kids have to keep moving,” Snodgrass said. “They walk or jog or play games such as basketball or four-square ball, bouncing a ball from square to square.”
The farm and ranch program horse group will meet once a week for two hours under the supervision of equine specialist Vickie Padilla and farm and ranch specialist Carla Clowdis. Youth will participate in therapeutic horse training with Youthville’s 38 horses.
Amber, an 11-year-old resident of Youthville for two years, said she has learned “to be gentle with horses and work with them as a partner.” She said her favorite horse is Cash, because “He allows me to hug him under his neck.”
Another 11-year-old, Lee, said: “Don’t ever smack a horse on his rear, because he will take off running really fast."
Cody, a 13-year-old, said he loves the horse Stomper so much that he lay down beside Stomper to console him when the horse was seriously ill last winter.
Other summer activities will include chapel services and Bible study, each provided once a week by the Rev. Kip Ryherd, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Minneola. The choir of up to 15 members performs on and off campus.
Page 2 of 2 - The Friday Club takes place every other week, with different cottage sponsors who organize games and bring snacks. Campus birthday parties also take place once a month with cakes and gifts to honor the boys and girls whose birthdays are that month.
“We try to keep the kids busy,” said campus director Kent Noble, a Youthville staff member for 16 years. “Our program is relationship-based. We work to build trust and relationships with the children so they will have a better foundation to go forward.”