Two youth have their poles and tackle boxes in hand as they prepare to catch some fish last May as part of OK Kids Day at Meade Lake State Park. This year’s event is scheduled for May 7. Daily Leader file photo/
• Special to the Leader & Times
There was a time when Kansas kids took the outdoors for granted. They just seemed to grow up outside.
That time was spent working on the family farm, chasing frogs down by the ponds, wandering along the creeks and rivers, and scaring up rabbits along the fence rows.
Kansas kids were no strangers to sunrises and sunsets, nor to the feel of wind, rain, or snow on their faces. Values learned from these times — responsibility, self-reliance, hard work and sharing — carried over into the lives they led.
Kansas kids were no strangers to sunrises and sunsets, nor to the feel of wind, rain, or snow on their faces. Values learned from these times – responsibility, self-reliance, hard work and sharing – carried over into the lives they led.
The mission of OK Kids Day is to provide multiple outdoor recreation opportunities for Kansas youth with adult partnering and mentoring to encourage outdoor recreational opportunities, and promote and provide an active lifestyle as an alternative to sedentary activities.
The first year of the Outdoor Kansas for Kids program was 2001, and was limited to a single day of activities at every Kansas State Park. Between 4,000 and 5,000 attended the first OK Kids Day. As the program has grown, it has become an annual program with most events between May and September on a day selected by the site host.
Across the state of Kansas each year, more than 50 sites sign up to host the OK Kids program. Participation has steadily grown through 2010 with more than 13,000 Kansas youth and their parents/grandparents enjoying their day outdoors at 46 different sites across Kansas. Events are free to all participants and open to all.
“The Kansas Wildscape Foundation and the OK Kids program understands that this is a generation of children full of technology, constant activities and expectations, strict boundaries set by parents and society to protect, and a shrinking sensory world,” the KWF Web site said. “Today’s children are not ‘missing’ nature, because they cannot miss something they have never truly had. It is our goal to help show our Kansas children the beauty of nature, an appreciation for nature and a desire to seek out more nature in their life. By making this impact, we hope to help a child find a place of imagination, a place of fantasy, a place of peace, a place of discovery, a place of freedom, a place of privacy, a place of transformation.”
The program is sponsored by the Kansas Wildscape Foundation. The majority of OK Kids Day events will take place in May and June, including a local one on May 7 at Meade Lake State Park.
OK Kids covers the entire state of Kansas. Primary sites are at the Kansas state parks, but other organizations and venues such as city and county parks and recreation departments and private sites also host OK Kids events.
The program offers the opportunity for participants to experience the outdoor beauty of Kansas and to learn a little about its natural resources and wildlife through games and activities.
Each site determines the specific activities it will offer participants based on the site’s resources and perceived community interests and needs. KWF provides the operating manuals, event signage, free participant caps or T-shirts, gifts, prizes and overall organizational, promotional and marketing support.
Kids participate in outdoor games and activities including:
o fishing derbies
o fishing clinics
o mini triathlons
o scavenger hunts
o sack races
o bird watching
o birdhouse building
o bike safety clinics
o outdoor cooking contests
All events are free and provide a great way for families to spend time together outdoors. For many of these Kansas kids, this OK Kids Day will be an introduction to the beauty and enjoyment of the outdoors, for others a reawakening or reinforcing of their outdoor interests.
For more information on the Meade Lake event, call 620-873-2572.
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