The only YMCA in Fairfax County is accepting applications for its more than 50 summer camp options.
Joseph Crawford, YMCA Fairfax County Reston’s executive director, said some residents may be unaware that the cost of the organization’s camps — which can run $180 and up per week, per child — can be covered by scholarship funding.
“We raise all the money locally. Some comes from some companies around here, there’s lot of them in Reston, but the lion’s share of the money donated just comes from families that had positive experiences at YMCAs and they really get it,” Crawford said. “Reston and Fairfax County, specifically, it’s a very philanthropic community, and they have that give-back focus kind of built into their DNA.”
YMCA Fairfax County Reston has about 10,000 members, Crawford said. He said 300 to 400 children and teenagers can be involved in camps at the branch each day during the summer.
“The camps range from age 6 all the way up through teenagers — boys and girls of all ages, a very diverse group,” he said. “We really take a lot of pride in making sure there’s a continuum of care, all the way from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s also high-quality and cost-effective if you have more than one kid, and that’s why we have the scholarship system.”
According to information provided by YMCA Fairfax County Reston, more than $3 million in financial-assistance scholarships have been awarded since the facility opened in 2000.
“Contributions support our Caring for Community scholarship which provides financial assistance for individuals and families who are unable to afford quality childcare, summer camp, membership as well as other programs and services.”
More than $425,000 was awarded in 2016 among over 1,600 scholarships, with 20 percent of those going toward summer camp enrollment.
Crawford said anyone interested in applying for a Caring for Community scholarship should visit the YMCA branch (12196 Sunset Hills Road). Applicants will be asked to supply recent pay stubs (if applicable), tax documents and other financial budget statements.
The director said STEM-based camps such as Lego Robotics are particularly popular, but the YMCA continues to offer more traditional camps as well.
“We have traditional camps, where they can swim, bike and play basketball, that are all right here at the branch,” Crawford said. “A lot of the adventure camps are popular too, where the kids or the teenagers can take local trips around to different museums in the DMV area.”
YMCA is the fifth largest charitable organization in the United States, and Crawford said the scholarship program that helps make camp and memberships possible for many is a large part of what makes it great.
“The membership dues keep the doors open,” he said. “The scholarship money, the money we raise every year, makes sure we’re an inclusive organization so that everybody can come in and out of those doors.”
Photo via YMCA Fairfax County Reston/Facebook
Summer may seem far in the distance, but the time to think about it — especially for kids — has arrived.
Reston Community Center will host its fourth annual Reston Camp Expo on Saturday. The event is an opportunity for parents and children to learn about all the opportunities available to them in the area once school is out, said Eileen Boone, RCC learning and leisure director.
“It’s nonprofit organizations and government agenices, so there’s a strong emphasis on programs that provide scholarships, transportation options, and even congregrate lunches and snacks for children,” she said. “There is definitely an emphasis on making sure that every child this summer will have an opportunity to stay engaged and active, even if they may not necessarily have the funds.”
Boone said the expo was originally the idea of Reston founder Bob Simon.
“He wanted to get all of the different rec agencies and community organizations together and he wanted us to really talk to each other and figure out where there were gaps in programming, wait lists in some camps,” she said. “[He wanted us] to share that information and try to help these kids get into camps in the area.”
In addition to RCC, many other organizations will be present at the expo to share their summertime offerings. Exhibitors will include Reston Association, Fairfax County Public Schools, the county Parks Authority, the county Department of Neighborhood and Community Services, Reston Regional Library, YMCA Fairfax County Reston and more.
On top of that, Boone said, representatives from area nonprofit youth sports organizations including Reston Soccer, Great Falls Youth Rugby Club, Herndon-Reston Youth Field Hockey and others will be at Saturday’s event.
“We’ve expanded it a little bit to try to feature other programs and organizations,” she said. “It’s just to let the parents and kids know what else is out there.”
Boone said many regional summer camps and clubs will begin enrollment soon, and they often fill up quickly.
“[This expo] is really like a one-stop shop,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to see all of the different camp programs and learn all about the various scholarships and fee waivers that exist.”
Some organizations will be registering campers at the expo, Boone said. Attendees do not have to register on-site, however, as they will receive an updated Camp Resource Guide to help them research their decision for summertime fun.
The expo will be at RCC’s Hunters Woods location (2310 Colts Neck Road) beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. For more information, call Boone at 703-390-6162.
Of the 23 branches in the Fairfax County Public Library system, only one has a dedicated children’s desk.
That area, at the Reston Regional Library, is a bustling center of activity. So said Dorota Rodgers, the library’s youth services manager.
“It’s everything, from storytime to movies to art class,” she said.
The schedule of children’s events for the coming month at the library is jam-packed, featuring something for kids of all ages — from babies all the way up through teens. Programming for teens, for example, includes coding workshops and a Teen Advisory Board.
But Rodgers said there is a “very high demand” for programs geared toward babies.
“When registration opens, it is full in 20 or 30 minutes,” she said. “I think people are more focused on how to prepare their children to be successful as a reader and then at school.”
With that in mind, the library is putting a major focus on the “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program, which launched Nov. 1. The program encourages parents to regularly read to their young children, getting the kids to make reading an important aspect of their lives.
Rodgers said nearly 150 families have registered for the program at the Reston library in its first two months, and some have already reached the 250-book plateau.
“Children learn about pre-reading skills. They can start learning from birth,” she said. “It’s a very precious program.”
Getting children familiar with the importance of reading is a key component to their future success, Rodgers said. She said the all-volunteer teachers who provide programming at the library are a big part of getting kids excited about visiting.
One program sees trained therapy dogs brought into the library. Children read to the pups and gain a valuable learning experience in doing so, Rodgers said.
“They lay down with the dog, show pictures to the dog, whisper to them,” Rodgers said. “Nobody judges them, and they just love spending time reading in a 15-minute session, one on one.”
More intricate programs that require bringing in outside presenters, such as Little Twisters Storytime Yoga and Gymboree Music, are co-sponsored by the Friends of the Reston Regional Library.
“Thanks to the very supportive Friends of the Reston Regional Library, I can book many paid performers from outside, additional to our programs done by our staff members,” Rodgers said.
The library also offers programming for adults, including stress-relieving coloring sessions and courses in English as a Second Language.
For more information on upcoming programming at the Reston Regional Library, check out the online calendar, call the library at 703-689-2700 or pick up a schedule at the front desk.
Common Ground Child Care Center (1700 Wainwright Drive) is scheduled to host the big man in red from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, according to the organization. Children can have some food, play games, work on crafts and take a photo with the jolly old elf.
Admission is $5. Parents also are asked to donate a new or gently used children’s book for Common Ground’s library.
Families are encouraged to RSVP at [email protected].
Founded in 1972, Common Ground provides programs for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years old.
Photo via Wikimedia/Bailiwick Studios
“Reston A to Z,” a book by author Watt Hamlett and illustrator Jill Olinger Vinson, hits select stores today.
The book takes young readers on a tour of the community and teaches them the story of how it came to be, led by none other than its famous founder — who takes the form of an animal named Robert E. Squirrel.
“[Bob Squirrel] is a delightful character who perhaps bears more than a passing resemblance to Reston’s beloved founder, Robert E. Simon,” Hamlett and Vinson said.
The story is told in rhyming verse, and takes children through the alphabet from A to Z, with each stop featuring a different corner of the Reston community. The book includes colorful, illustrated drawings of the places, activities and nature that make Reston what it is.
Stops along the tour include Lake Anne Plaza, Reston Town Center, Reston Regional Library, the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, Walker Nature Center, the Reston Farmers Market, the W&OD Trail and more.
“The book also highlights features of Reston such as its lakes, pedestrian paths, swimming pools, community garden plots and parks,” say Hamlett and Vinson.
They add, the book also features other creative touches like a hidden acorn on each page, a coloring page, and a travel log where kids can check off the places or things in the book they have experienced around Reston.
All in all, the book is an homage to the town Hamlett and Vinson have grown to love as residents for so many years.
Hamlett, the book’s author and photographer, has lived in Reston since 2000. He says he was inspired to write this book out of his love for Reston that grew from exploring it over many years with his wife and two sons.
“I hope the book serves as a tribute to Reston’s beauty, community spirit and the vision of Reston’s founder, Robert E. Simon,” Hamlett said.
Jill Olinger Vinson, the book’s illustrator, grew up in Reston and is a graduate of South Lakes High School. She returned as an adult to live in Reston with her husband, and her two sons were born in Reston. She now lives in neighboring Herndon.
“Reston A to Z is available for sale locally at several locations, including the Reston Museum at Lake Anne Plaza. For all copies purchased at the Museum, 100 percent of the profits will go directly to the Reston Historic Trust. The Museum is also selling stuffed Bob Squirrel plushes.
Hamlett and Vinson will be signing copies of the book at the Reston Museum on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon.
The book is also available for purchase online from Mascot Books, and at other Reston retailers including Scrawl Books and Dawn Price Baby, as well as online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. The book retails for $15.95.
Photos courtesy of Watt Hamlett and Jill Olinger Vinson
Learning how to swim shouldn’t stop when the weather gets too cold to swim outside.
Reston’s Goldfish Swim School appreciates that fact, and provides high-quality year-round swim classes for kids four months to 12 years old. The pools are kept at 90 degrees and air temperature at 92 so kids’ bodies stay shiver-free as they get in and out of the pool. The parents’ gallery for watching lessons is kept at a comfortable temperature.
Goldfish Swim School first started in Michigan in 2006, and was an instant success teaching kids to swim with Ellis and Red Cross Certified Instructors and Lifeguards. The Reston location opened in November 2014 and has had an amazing response.
Goldfish Swim School knows that children learn water safety and swim skills best when consistent practice occurs, which is why they offer perpetual lessons year round.
With a kid-friendly atmosphere complete with warm pools and fun, tropical décor, Goldfish Swim School has what you and you child need to be happy and successful in the water.
The preceding post was sponsored by Goldfish Swim School.
At Totally Trucks, RA lets kids climb on all the big construction equipment, as well as a fire truck, ambulance and other public safety vehicles.
Totally Trucks is 9:30 a.m. to noon on Aug. 7 at RA’s Central Services Facility (12250 Sunset Hills Rd). Admission is free and the event takes place rain or shine.