Kids Club transitions back to independence
The Kids Club has recently completed the transition away from its partnership with the Madras Aquatic Center Recreation District and is gearing up for an eventful summer of camps, field trips and its annual Olympics competition.
From 2015 to 2018, the Kids Club and the MACRD had a memorandum of understanding under which the MAC district provided administrative services to the Kids Club, including oversight by its executive director, with the long-term plan of having the district take over the Kids Club.
However, the partnership was dissolved in the wake of the MACRD's firing of Executive Director Joe McHaney amid allegations that McHaney had stolen money from both organizations. McHaney has since been charged with first-degree theft, computer crimes, and first-degree official misconduct.
Over the past year, the Kids Club has had to reestablish itself as a stand-alone organization. The board of directors promoted Caren Smith to the executive director position, purchased new software to manage member registration and daily check-in and check-out of members, and hired a certified public accountant to do the bookkeeping.
The Kids Club board also had to go over its financial records carefully to look for discrepancies and make sure that they were in order, and took steps to prevent future theft from the organization.
"We have lots of new processes in place for financials," Smith said. "We are in the best financial position we have been in in years."
Smith said community support has been key. The new registration software, which was needed because Kids Club members can no longer register via the MACRD, cost almost $10,000. The entire cost was covered by a combination of funds from a city of Madras grant and a Ford Family Foundation transition grant.
Smith also credits the Kids Club Board of Directors. "I think if it weren't for the strong board we have, the transition wouldn't have been so smooth. Our board has put countless hours into the transition," she said.
"At this point, we have everything switched over that the MAC did for us," Smith said.
Membership has remained strong during the transition. As the school year winds down, the club has around 100 members, with attendance at about 85-95 per day in its Westside location.
The club also runs an after-school program called The Zone at the middle school, which attracts anywhere from five to 25 students per day.
"It all depends on sports and other after-school activities," Smith said.
The Kids Club's school year calendar ends June 11. The club will take a few days for cleaning and preparation for the summer session, which runs from June 17 to Aug. 23. Registration is open now and membership costs $550 for the summer.
In addition to its usual activities in the gym, game room and playground, the club will offer six summer camps in June and July in partnership with other community organizations.
The fire department will run its popular survival skills camp and the airport will once again put on the aviation camp. There will also be a paddle boarding camp, a basketball camp and two cheerleading camps for different age groups.
For more information about the summer camps, see the Kids Club website at www.jckidsclub.com/activities.
In August, in lieu of camps, the Kids Club will mount its annual three-week Olympics-style competition for members, with participants assigned to represent different countries in multiple sporting events.
Throughout the summer, the club will be taking kids on field trips near and far, including a trip to Seattle to see a Mariners baseball game.
The club will take 20 kids, ages third grade and up, in two vans. The group will be there on a special kids field day, so the kids will be invited onto the field and will be in a parade.
The club is getting a nonprofit discount rate on the tickets. Some of the transportation cost will be covered by the remnants of a Central Oregon Health Council grant and the kids will be required to do some fundraising, with the goal of raising $75 apiece.
Closer to home, the club will take kids to the new splash pad in Sahalee Park when it opens, and to Madras Bowl, the Lava Caves and Mountain Air.
The club will also be taking kids to the MAC four days a week.
Some members of the public were dismayed when the Kids Club bused members to swim in Redmond during spring break because the MAC, which had previously allowed Kids Club members to swim for free, started charging them its regular fee.
However, the two organizations have worked out a compromise. "I'm very thankful that (MACRD Executive Director) Jim Weyermann and myself were able to meet and come up with a price that is going to stop us from having to go to Redmond. We don't want it for free. We understand that they have operations to run, but it was just a big shocker to go from paying nothing to paying $5.50 per kid," said Smith.
Kids Club members are now charged $3 per swim. The club passes the cost along to the parents, so some kids will probably be swimming less this summer.
To accommodate families who can't afford extra fees, the Kids Club staff is planning free or low-cost field trips to local attractions such as Smith Rock and Redmond's Sam Johnson Park.
Smith feels good going into the summer. "We have all of our staff set to go," she said.