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July 20, 2023

A Magical Motivational Morning

Kelli Karen Smith, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Summer camps bring many different types of excitement. Some children wake up excited for another day with friends. Some are excited about the activities they will do. Some focus on the field trips and the special guests. And some just can’t wait to see what books they will be reading as part of the Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge (SSRC)!

North Port Parks and Recreation GMAC Summer Camp is one of about 80 camps participating in the SSRC. With a goal of having each camper read at least six books over the summer to prevent the reading loss known as the summer slide, the camp makes reading a big deal and loads of fun.

During a recent meeting with my camp point of contact, we brainstormed ways to increase family engagement with the campers’ families and loved ones. I asked if the staff and the campers would do something to celebrate the adults supporting their children daily. We created a “Magical Motivational Morning” for those dropping off their children in the camp drive-through lane.

Before the event, the campers created fun, motivational messages we included in a clear bag with morning muffins and miniature chocolate bars. Posters on the lawn greeted the cars in the drive-thru as they arrived. Messages such as “You are enough,” “May your day start well and end even better,” “You will never fail until you stop trying,” “Keep going, things will work out,” and “You are magical,” made for a brighter morning as the cars arrived!

Thanks to the generosity of The Patterson Foundation, those in the cars received a cold beverage (water or juice), muffins, a sunshade, and a daily affirmation gratitude shower card. And every person momentarily turned into a kid and laughed and smiled when they were told they were also getting a THIS BOOK IS COOL! (TBIC!) beach ball!

As the cars, van, and trucks approached me, they were greeted with a sincere smile. They returned the smiles with grins, laughter, and the kindest words. Responses such as “This is amazing!” “We love The Patterson Foundation!” “Look at all of this. I feel like a superstar today.” “This is a wonderful program,” and “The purple shirts!” brought so much joy. Comments such as “My child couldn’t speak, and the books from TBIC! help us so much. She’s beginning to talk. Thank you for all you do.” made my heart swell as I remembered how vital every connection is.

As each car drove off, I knew the drivers felt seen and appreciated. It was truly a magical, motivational morning.

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