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  • Pam Gaskill, Chris Skrotsky, and Sheila Kahrimanian

Community Collaboration brings Fun Day to kids

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Boys and Girls Club members pose with Fun Day volunteers in front of JT  Barber Elementary School at the end of the day.
Boys and Girls Club members pose with Fun Day volunteers in front of JT Barber Elementary School at the end of the day.

A long-awaited Fun Day in Fairfield Harbour was thwarted by Mother Nature on June 23, but quick thinking and problem solving by the organizers saved the day. About 60 members of the New Bern Boys and Girls Club were expected to spend the day in the Harbour participating in our many recreational opportunities, including fishing, golfing, and pickleball. Careful planning of logistics, acquisition of equipment, and preparation of the areas, such as mowing of the putting green, had been done. But due to the threat of thunderstorms, the activities were moved at the last minute to JT Barber Elementary School where the kids normally meet for summer camp. A great time was still had by all.

Fairfield Harbour Yacht Club Commodore Dave Phipps talks to teens about the proper wear and importance of PFDs (personal floating devices).

This special event resulted from nearly a year of planning and demonstrated how a community can unite to make magic happen. The spark began with Harvey Pye and Steve Mink, leaders of the Fairfield Harbour Fishing Club, looking at donated money the club had been saving and deciding it was time to put it to use. The duo spoke to Chris Skrotsky, a Fairfield resident, President of the New Bern Woman’s Club, and a member of the Boys and Girls Club (BCG) Advisory Board, about the possibility of bringing older kids to Fairfield Harbour for a day of fishing. The New Bern Woman’s Club has supported BGC with volunteers and funding since BGC was established in New Bern seven years ago. The fishing idea was tweaked to make it a charity event for the BGC. Dre’ Nix, Senior Vice President of Operations of The Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Plain, was brought on board and the concept of a Fun Day for BGC summer campers in the Harbour grew from there.

Fishing Club members work with campers to improve their casting skills.

Several other Harbour organizations were enlisted to provide alternate activities for the 60 expected kids so that they could rotate from one activity to another in smaller groups. Commodore Dave Phipps of the Fairfield Harbour Yacht Club became involved, recruiting loans of life jackets and volunteers for a variety of activities. FH Pickleball Club’s Ellen McElree and Phil Hewett were enlisted to lead the charge for pickleball lessons. The POA staff became enthusiastic to transform the out-of-use 9th green at Shoreline into a decent putting surface and Resort Management Group loaned putters and golf balls from the mini-golf course at the Rec Center. The Fishing Club provided some rods and reels and got others donated by Custom Marine Fabrication and Sports. Each of the groups collected monetary donations from their members.

Harvey Pye and other volunteers coach kids on putting--not quite as nice as it would have been on the real putting green, but they made it work.

Harvey Pye and Steve Mink solicited a complete lunch of a chicken sandwich, chips, a cookie, and water and ice for 80 people from the generous owner of Chick-Fil-A, an $800 donation. Food Lion provided additional ice and water as well. Anita English was on the organizing team but ended up not being able to attend the event. Retired teachers Olwen Jarvis and Pam Gaskill, along with Chris Skrotsky, were tasked with providing crafts for those seeking a quieter activity.

Olwen Jarvis organized a lovely leaf rubbing activity.

Paula Mink decided goody bags would make nice reminders of the Fun Day so she involved Margaret Rose in soliciting contributions from her partners at Neuse Realty, and from Kevin Griffin of Storm Guard. Each of the campers received a lovely bag chock full of appealing items.

Chris Skrotsky and a new friend share their fuzzy creations.

With the last-minute move to JT Barber Elementary, all of the above items had to be transported to the school rather than having the kids bused to the Harbour, and the timing of activities had to be restructured. It also meant that the younger campers, from kindergarten up, would now be included. However, with good communication and great flexibility, everything went off without a hitch. The Fishing Club and Yacht Club used the gym in the morning. Fishing Club volunteers worked with the kids to cast fishing lures into hula hoops (sometimes snagging basketball nets). Dave Phipps and FHYC volunteers helped with life jackets and putting. Meanwhile, in the cafeteria, other groups of kids were busy with various crafts, including making braided and bead bracelets, doing leaf rubbings, and making cards. Yacht Club members joined Olwen, Pam, and Chris in supervising the crafts. Ask Paula Phipps if she ever wants to braid another bracelet again.

Campers enjoyed working on a variety of crafts with help from volunteers like Kathy Clay.

Fishing Club volunteers included Harvey Pye, Steve Mink and Paula Mink, Don Simpson, Paul and Dawn McIntyre, Jeff Wood, John McClain, Don and Carol Yuska, and John and Francis Roy. FHYC volunteers included Dave and Paula Phipps, Chris Skrotsky, Anita English, Olwen Jarvis, Pam Gaskill, Peter and Kathy Clay, Jenny Nebe, and Dave and Carrie Miller.

Bracelet making was a big hit with everyone! Paula Phipps helped to braid more of them than she may care to remember.

In the afternoon, pickleball enthusiasts took over the gym, leading kids through two sessions. First, they started out with basic pickleball rules, etiquette, and drills. From there, they went to game strategy and actual play. Phil Hewett, Ellen McElree, Walt Purhamas, and Rick Finlayson taught lessons. Also on hand were Karen Powers and Sheila Kahrimanian who provided ball-handling and game strategy techniques.

Boys and Girls Club head of operations, Dre’ Nix, talks to the campers about the large muscle activities in the afternoon.

After lunch was served, cafeteria tables were moved out of the way and the space was filled with large muscle games, including putting into Solo cups, corn hole, bowling, a giant floor checkerboard, among others. Crafts and small muscle activities such as puzzles and board games were also available.

Pickleball took over the gym in the afternoon.

Overall, the entire day went amazingly smoothly, especially for a Plan C operation. As seven-year-old Miguel said enthusiastically, “This is the best day ever!” And it wasn’t just the kids who loved the day. The adult volunteers enjoyed their time with the kids every bit as much. One of the most positive aspects of the day was the close relationships that were formed with many one-on-one adult/child activities. Dre’ Nix corroborated the importance of her kids' experiences with community members.

Lots of volunteers were on hand to work with the kids individually as they tried new skills.

Even better is the fact that the Fun Day marks the beginning of Fairfield Harbour’s new and deeper relationship with BGC. About $200 was left over and granted to the BGC Summer Camp. All volunteers were deeply impressed with the level of discipline and respect that was shown by the kids and many (newly) recognize the value that BGC offers to the kids and the community.

Peter Clay and friend play a giant Connect Four game.

The Fishing Club definitely wants to continue to head this event, hopefully in the Harbour as originally planned, and other groups are considering how they can continue to support the program in the future. Fun Day was definitely a win-win for everyone involved!

Each kid got a lovely goody bag assembled by Paula Mink and helpers.

“This was the best day ever!” The sweet little smile says it all.

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