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Toledo summer programs aimed at curbing youth violence

Toledo has decided to host many camps across the city. Program organizers, parents, and campers said the camps seem to be doing a good job.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The city of Toledo has decided to host many camps across the city.

Program organizers, parents and campers said the camps seem to be doing a good job of giving kids safe, fun and educational alternatives.

The City Commissioner of Parks, Recreation & Forestry, Karen Ranney Wolkins, said the city is already getting some positive feedback on the camps and how they have been curbing the city's violence.

In downtown Toledo, the Young Women Of Toledo's Girls Hub office is where Monique Ward-Redmond beams at her daughter, Maysun Harris. Harris participated in Fearless Builders, one of the city's free camps.  

 "It got me to do something during my summer since it was very boring," Harris said. 

Harris, along with 24 other girls, each built a work of art using their own two hands. She said they used construction tools to build something they otherwise would not be able too, making it a worthwhile camp.

"It was us expressing ourselves into the chair. and that's what we got to do, so it was very fun," Harris said.

The city partnered with 75 different organizations to offer more free summer camps this summer than there have ever been. 

"Just about something for everyone," Ranney Wolkins said. "Podcast camps, there's a women's group, building group, building chairs. Learning all kinds of ways to use construction tools."

Ward-Redmond said Toledo needed these camps to keep kids busy and out of violent activities. 

"I came [to Toledo] in the early 2000s. I felt very safe. I could walk with my children, get on a Tarta bus, everything was great. Now it doesn't feel like that anymore," Ward-Redmond said.

Toledo GROWs, the community gardening outreach of the Toledo Botanical Gardens has activities to keep kids learning and outdoors. The organization's Educational Coordinator, Claire Caryer, said using city parks, with playgrounds or just open fields, is a great first step to helping curb the violence.

"Giving them something to do in those places, I think, is a big step towards improving the safety and happiness in our city," Caryer said. 

Ward-Redmond said she loves the camps. But, she added that the city and community can't just focus on fun. 

"Bad kids need the programs too. So how do you reach those kids, so they can be also poured into helping kids mentally, spiritually?" Ward-Redmond asked. "Maybe even churches doing more."

Harris said any kid who's hesitant to try any of the camps because they might not seem cool should still give them a chance.

"When you try new stuff it can be worth it in the end," Harris said. 

Credit: Young Women of Toledo

Ward-Redmond said when programs like the Fearless Builders host impactful events, like a VIP Reception for the girls to showcase their work, it makes for happier and smarter Toledo children.

The city is collecting completed surveys to see if these camps are working. The surveys should be able to tell if these summer activities keep the kids safe and interested and helping quell violence.

They are not anticipating a true answer on if the camps are working until the end of summer when all the surveys are turned in.

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