Robbinsville summer camps teach kids about giving

Kids at Robbinsville's Summer Recreation Camp perform a coordinated dance routine during the camp's annual talent show. The talent show coincided with the conclusion of the camp's first food drive, which raised 522 canned and boxed goods for the Robbinsville Food Pantry.

Friday, July 13, kids from Robbinsville’s summer recreation camp noisily filled Sharon Elementary School’s auditorium for the annual talent show.

Kids as young as first grade displayed their artwork, told jokes, performed original dance routines, sung, and even jump-roped on stage.

Recreation camp counselor Nicole Douglass said the kids chose their talent and designed their performance without help from adults.

“It’s whatever they want to do,” Douglass said.

Any student in either Robbinsville’s recreation camp – for kids from first through sixth grades, or from the township’s sports camp, for kids in fourth through seventh grades – may participate in the show. The talent show had 29 acts this year, Douglass said.

The talent show also coincided with the conclusion of a food drive held by the camp for the first time this year and initiated by assistant camp director Kevin Keener.

During the school year, Keener works for the Robbinsville Extended Day program, and does a food drive every November for Thanksgiving. This year he did another food drive in the spring as well.

“I find it rewarding,” Keener said.

So rewarding, in fact, that Keener started a food drive at the recreation camp as well. The idea was sparked by a conversation Keener had with food pantry director Renee Burns.

“She said the pantry is lowest in food during the summer,” Keener said. Keener learned that donations spike during the winter holidays but drop when the weather gets warmer.

Having recreation camp kids collect canned and boxed food items and bring them in over the course of the first three weeks of camp seemed like a good way to help out the Robbinsville food pantry and teach kids about helping others, Keener said.

“We explained to kids that it’s always good to give,” Keener said.

Keener set a goal for the kids of 500 cans, jars, or boxed dry goods by the third week of camp, and as an incentive, promised kids that if they reached the goal one of the counselors would shave his head.

“We thought that would be fun,” Keener said.

Counselors sent kids home with flyers telling parents about the drive, and encouraged kids who brought in food by acknowledging them at the day’s morning meeting.

“The kids liked it a lot because they got recognition,” Keener said.

By the end of the three weeks, Keener said, the drive had collected 522 canned goods for the pantry.

“I was very very happy with the outcome of everything,” said Keener.

Counselor Tyler Margotta volunteered to have his head shaved for the cause – “he had the least amount of hair,” Douglass said – and to the glee of campers, was shaved onstage by Keener and camp counselor Steve Kowalski.

Keener said he hopes to make the food drive an annual event like the talent show. The kids had fun, he said, and the event gave a much-needed boost to the local food pantry.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Keener said.

Robbinsville’s summer recreation camp and sports camp run for seven weeks every year, beginning at the end of June. For more information, call (609) 918-0002 ext. 120, or email rec@robbinsville-twp.org.