PASCO — This is Johnny Llamos' fourth year spending his summer at the Center for Sharing in east Pasco.
The 10-year-old and other children played Monday with fresh homemade clay they'd made from flour, oil, salt and warm water. Then, they headed outside to play a tag-like game called Shark.
"I really like the sports," he said, adding that soccer was his favorite activity at the center's summer camp.
As many as 30 students are enrolled this summer from mid-June to mid-August to participate in the low-key and informal camp sponsored by the Community Alliance for Service and Advancement, or CASA.
Many of the children live in the neighboring Tierra Vida subdivision, affiliated with Broetje Orchards, which aims to build a community that helps residents grow in leadership and service.
Many of their parents work in the orchards, and the children have trouble participating in other programs because they live on the east end of town, where there's less for kids to do.
Camp organizers and volunteers said they see the benefits the program provides students, from keeping them out of trouble to helping them retain their math skills over the summer, developing friendships and learning more about the world.
"We're really about getting kids to dream outside the classroom," said camp co-coordinator Luke Hallowell.
The camp offers the elementary and middle school students a mix of things to do.
Most weekday mornings, students rotate between activities, such as crafts, outdoor games and time in the center's computer lab. There they work with math enrichment programs or on typing skills.
Fridays are field trip days, with visits to a local roller rink or places like Pendleton, the Country Mercantile's chocolate shop north of Pasco and Soap Lake.
"We liked throwing mud at each other (at the lake)," laughed Daisy Perez, 12, who's attending the camp for the first time.
Students also deal with some real-world concepts. Daisy and other students were developing plans Monday for a service project. Some planned to volunteer for the Benton-Franklin Humane Society or help make care packages for military servicemen.
They'll also spend time with people from Heritage University later this summer learning about different careers. Older students also work at Broetje Orchards a few times during the camp, earning minimum wage and getting some perspective on what it's like to put in a hard day's work.
Hallowell said organizing the camp isn't without challenges.
The full price to attend is more than $50 a week, but many families receive discounted rates because of their economic status, keeping it affordable while also putting more pressure on Hallowell and fellow co-director Walter Chimal to come up with the $15,000 to $18,000 budget from grants and other sources.
"We've been really blessed," Hallowell said, adding that the camp is supported by national and regional business donations, but they also dig into their own pockets.
Regardless, the benefits of the program outweigh the financial challenges, they said.
Hallowell said parents, many of whom work odd hours, are glad to have a safe place their kids can walk to and spend most of the day.
Chimal said it was a great way to keep students on the right track.