Bert Nash summer program encourages mental, physical health

The Bert Nash summer program includes lots of outdoor time and group activities.

The Bert Nash summer program includes lots of outdoor time and group activities. by Jeff Burkhead

School’s out, and that means it’s time for the Bert Nash Summer Program.

The program, called Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds, runs from June 7 to July 28 and will involve about 75 kids.

“We have a lot of kids this year,” said Rhonda Stubbs, who oversees the program and leads the group for elementary-age kids. There are also groups for middle school and high school youth. The groups meet three days a week.

“The goal of the summer program is to provide positive interactions with other kids in the community,” Stubbs said. “We teach them social skills, interpersonal skills, coping skills. We encourage healthy daily living and finding ways to manage symptoms in a positive environment.”

Frances Rico leads the two groups for older kids.

“The summer program targets a holistic approach to being mentally and physically healthy,” Rico said. “We provide the integration of physical activity, nutritional education and life-skills training.”

Kids in the elementary group are referred for the summer program by their therapist. Middle school and high school kids are also referred by a therapist or by a WRAP worker. WRAP (Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities) is a Bert Nash program that places a clinician in the school.

Thanks to a grant from the Outside for a Better Inside organization, which focuses on the therapeutic benefits of being outdoors, the summer program was able to purchase outdoor equipment for the kids to use. The WRAP program also recently received funding from the Shumaker Family Foundation and the Lawrence Breakfast Optimist Club.

“We’re going to be using the Sandra Shaw Community Health Park a lot this summer,” Stubbs said of the city park, located just north of the Bert Nash Center and named for the Center’s former CEO.

“I always love to see the growth of the children and how they interact together,” Stubbs said. “When they are able to do a skill without prompting … that’s that ah-ha moment when you know they got it. We had a kid last year who had trouble with anger and one day when he was upset he started using his breathing skills. He was like, Miss Rhonda, I did it, I did it. Just being able to have the kids feel good about themselves, you always love to see that.”

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