The Dover Air Force Base Youth Center is a busy place. Roxanne Lee, the recreation specialist at the base's youth center estimated that the center serves upwards of 400 kids each day. The facility is open every day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and they have everything from a structured class room-type environment where kids from ages 5 to 12 can learn about history, science and arts and crafts, to a teen hangout room. The center even has a snack bar where kids can buy treats, and where the center serves meals.
The youth center also offers informative programs for kids, like the one hosted on Wednesday: Kick Butts. Kids signed a pledge not to smoke, and made anti-smoking themed quilt squares, which will be sewn into one large quilt and displayed in the youth center before being sent to the Kick Butts organization in Washington, D.C.
"We do a lot of different anti-smoking programs," Lee said. "The Air Force has a program teaching kids about healthy lifestyles. We incorporated Kick Butts into that."
The youth center is there as a resource for growing children. It offers help with college preparedness, money management and healthy cooking.
"The kids get a little of everything," said Lee. "The goal is to make sure kids have a safe place to go."
Children at the Youth Center had also made anti-smoking themed pennants, which were also displayed in the center. The pennants displayed messages such as "Don't be a smoke-asaurus" with a picture of a T-rex. The Kick Butts event also featured face painting and Frisbee melee in the gym.
"The programs affect the parents and the kids," Lee said. "If the parents smoke, the kids will start bugging them about how smoking is bad. It's making them more aware."
The center had around 130 kids from the age of 5 to 12 turn out for the Kick Butts program.
The youth center also has an anti-smoking program that is targeted specifically at high school students, called 100 percent Tobacco Free.
"We talk about safety, lifestyle and the dangers of smoking," Lee said. "Then the kids can go into the gym and play basketball until midnight."
The base also offers kids the opportunity to volunteer with activities like pot gardening, composting and recycling. When kids earn volunteer hours the Air Force rewards their efforts by putting money into a savings account which the kids can then use to pay for college.
According to Lee, one of the reasons that the center wants to provide kids with a wide array of knowledge is so that the kids are prepared when they move on and they can fit in. The center also helps kids by offering a homework room, where they can receive tutoring.
Page 2 of 2 - "I don't often hear kids say that they're bored," Lee said. "If they're bored they need to tell us what we need to add. We try and offer anything the kids say they want."