Summer fun: Lima offers teens a variety of activities

LIMA — Lima Schools officials said it is important for teens to stay active during the summer for both mental and physical health.

Places like Westgate Entertainment and the Lima Family YMCA are working hard to make that possible.

“A lot of times, teens don’t like as much structure as you might think,” YMCA vice president Terri Averesch said. “We just try to provide activities that they like or that are interesting, even if it is robotics or a room with video games where they can participate without someone telling them what to do. But we also try to have structured programs when it’s possible because we are here for everyone. Teens that are here are sometimes also working alongside a senior or someone on the treadmill that might be closer to their parents’ age.”

The Y offers fitness programs, sports camps, yoga and cardio classes and even an upcoming triathlon for members and non-members to get teens involved, but the most important thing is offering a place that is safe.

“It’s good to have a safe place where you feel comfortable having your teens whether they’re working out or they’re involved in a program,” Averesch said. “They should still keep up with their reading, but it’s also important for them to be active and not just sitting in front of a video game or TV. That’s why we provide those kinds of activities, whether it’s a structured class or it’s open basketball.”

Lima superintendent Jill Ackerman sent out a similar message.

“We are blessed to live in a community that offers so much for our students of all ages to do over the summer,” Ackerman said in a statement through the school. “It is important for teens to keep active during the summer months and doing so is good for both their physical and mental health. We need to get teens away from their screens and out being active and engaging with others. Whether it’s our summer camps or getting involved in another organized activity, or just meeting up with friends at the park to play basketball — recreational activities make for a healthier and happier student.”

Even if the goal is not necessarily physical activity, a place like Westgate Entertainment Center, where between 3,000 and 4,000 kids participate in the “Kids Bowl Free” program, can provide that.

“I think we always want to be a facility where the community can gather and have a good time,” co-owner Andy Johnston said. “My brother is co-owner and we both have families so obviously we think it’s really important to have someplace for people of all ages to come together and enjoy themselves.”

Johnston said the most important thing that teens might look for in a place to hang out is other teens.

“I think they want something where they’re going to find other kids their age,” he said. “If they realize that there is something that other kids are doing, they feel like it’s something that everybody else is doing in their age group.”

It helps that Westgate offers activities promoting the fun of being a kid, like bowling, bumper cars and arcade games, without the need for parents to surveil too closely.

“Teens really like it on Friday nights from 6 p.m. to midnight when we have what we call Thunder Alley,” Johnston said. “We turn the lights out and turn on special effects lighting and current music. That’s what they really like.”

Averesch said it is important to keep spreading the word about activities like this.

“It’s harder for families to find things for the whole family,” she said. “It’s important to keep up with some of the activities going on in the area because we have some great things going on.”

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399