By Jack Ford 

Staff Writer 

Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) Youth Activities Center (YAC) 2017 Summer Camp hosted nearly 160 youths to enjoy the center's services and programming throughout the summer.   

The camp offers many events during the summer to include a trip to the zoo, a fun run, and swim time at the NAS Jax Outdoor Pool, along with their daily programming at the center. The camp also employs 10 high school students to give them experience working with children.  

Jason McKenzie, the YAC director, is the coordinator for this program. He has managed this summer camp for several years. 

"I really enjoy working with the children and this camp provides a lot of fun and educational events to keep them learning and occupied," said McKenzie. "Our staff strives to keep our summer campers entertained in a safe environment."   

The daily programs for the camp host different age groups of kids throughout the day and each room features a wide variety of activities. Some include creating unique science experiments such as a fizzy explosion called "Dancing Rice" in the science room, coloring and painting in the art room, educational computer games in the computer room and learning about volcanoes in the STEM room. The camp also offers other activities outside of these rooms to keep all of the kids entertained and active throughout the day.   

One week the camp hosts a fun run for the children. The week's extra activities include fun running drills that prepare the youths for the fun run. The drills started with stretches and running short distances. The distances increased each day of the week. The fun run offered three different distances based on age groups. The five- to eight-year-old children ran a half-mile, nine- to 10-year-olds ran a mile, and the 11- to 12-year-olds ran two miles. All of the kids and teen employees had fun and received a fun run T-shirt.   

One child said, "I love running a lot!"

The camp also takes regular trips to the NAS Jax Outdoor Pool. Tuesdays are for the younger kids. Younger children play in the splash pad, while others swim in the pool. On Thursdays, the older children use the pool and are separated by age, arriving at different times. All the kids who use the pool must pass a swimming test at the beginning of the summer or wear a life vest.   

One of the big events the summer camp offers each year is a trip to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. The children are divided into groups and spend the day viewing the animals and visiting the shops. Lunch is provided to give them a break from touring. 

"This is my first time at the Jackson-ville Zoo," stated one of the children. "I have been to many others, but I love this one. I can't wait to bring my grandma."   

Some of the other excursions planned for the summer campers include a rollerskating trip, Chuck E. Cheese for the younger groups, and a trip to Adventure Landing.

They also have two theater productions coordinated by Missoula Children's Theatre coming up next week. Everyone is encouraged to attend their show, "Wiz of the West" July 16 and the annual YAC Talent Show July 21.