Free programs this summer look to feed, energize kids

Summer comes with big challenges for area youth as school finishes for the year and activities seem scarce. But that challenge is just the right size for a few organizations in the area.

Katie Guldi from Planet Fitness in Milford says knowing about summertime options is half the battle – the other half might just be getting a teenager away from electronic screens and into a good program.

“We have a teen summer challenge for kids 15-18,” she explained. “It’s free over the summer, including special free classes with our teen instructor. And they will be entered for a chance at our $5,000 scholarship when they enroll.”

Fifty-one $500, one from every state, will also be awarded through the program.

“And what’s great is the teen that takes the most teen classes at our facility will win a three-month membership after it’s done. It’s really a great program,” Ms. Guldi said.

The summer challenge at Planet Fitness began in mid-May but will continue through Sept. 1. Teenagers who sign up for the challenge must work out and do classes at the facility where they enrolled. They are not permitted to use other facilities. A parent must accompany teens under 18 when they sign up, but they may work out alone enrollment, she said.

“Teens today are under ever-increasing pressure to succeed academically and socially, battle a growing list of responsibilities both inside and outside of the classroom and become well-rounded members of their community,” Planet Fitness’ Chief Executive Officer Chris Rondeau said in a press release. “At Planet Fitness, a healthy and active lifestyle should never be a challenge – which is why we’re flipping that notion on its head with the launch of the nationwide Teen Summer Challenge. We want to give teens across the United States the chance to stay active when school is out – a time when they may not otherwise have access to organized fitness or athletic programs, which is why we’re offering a safe space to exercise for free and spend time with their friends all summer long.”

In Milford, Planet Fitness is located at 696A N. Dupont Blvd. and can be reached at 302-491-4215.

Solving hunger pains

Local schools will add to nearby offerings by supplying free breakfast and lunch options for children under the age of 18.

According to Lake Forest School District’s Child Nutrition Services Supervisor Jennifer Montano, three schools in that district will offer free breakfast and lunch over the summer: Lake Forest South Elementary School in Harrington, Lake Forest High School in Felton and Lake Forest East Elementary in Frederica.

Breakfast will be served at each of the schools from 9:30 until 10 a.m. and lunch will be served from noon to 12:30 p.m. from Monday through Thursdays, June 17 until August 8, all on a first come, first served basis.

The program, funded by the USDA, will also be available at Milford Central Academy, according to Milford School District’s Chief Financial Officer Sara Croce. Details are still in the works and will be available soon online at

All schools in both districts qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision during the school year allowing for free meals at breakfast and lunchtime for enrolled students regardless of financial situations.

“If the kids really need this during the year, why wouldn’t the need it during the summer, too,” Ms. Montano asked. “It breaks my heart to think about what they are doing during the summer without any meals. Sometimes, the breakfast and lunch they get at school is it.”

Ms. Montano encouraged anyone in the area with children to stop by and take advantage of the program.

“I hope as many as can show up will come out. They don’t have to be students in our schools, they don’t even have to live in our area. They just have to walk in the doors. There is a stigma and people feel like they have to fall into a certain category to do this and they don’t,” she said. “We know that food and security causes other psychological issues that keeps them from focusing on other things like educational opportunities over the summer. Without having to worry about getting that next meal, they’re more relaxed and open to feed their brains, basically.”

She hopes to evolve the program in the Lake Forest School District to include community events and activities during mealtimes over the summer.

Having a ball

Aside from the annual Summer Reading Program, the Milford Public Library works hard to provide free options for local children during the hottest months of the year.

Teenagers and adults alike interested in art can meet in the Teen Room at the library every Monday evening at 6 p.m. for the Just the Art Club.

Children and teens are also invited to learn how to knit and/or crochet on Wednesdays or play Dungeons and Dragons on Fridays. Starting in July, families can also enjoy free music on Wednesday evenings with Music in the Park at the library.

The childlike fun doesn’t end at the gym or library, though. Families can also sign their children up to bowl for free during the summer at The Milford Bowling Lanes participates between May 8 and August 18. Hours for the program can be found on the Kids Bowl Free website.

Children bowling for free can get up to two games per day, but much pay for shoe rentals, additional games and food items during their visit.

Summertime programs, regardless of organization or business behind the notion, seem to have the same goal in mind.

“We’re just really trying to get teens active and not playing video games all summer,” Ms. Guldi of Planet Fitness said. “It gives the kids a chance to get out and do something.”

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