500 local campers find friends, life lessons through PALS program

June 15, 2012

Campers interact with a college student leader during the 2011 PALS (Purdue Athletes Life Success) program. This year more than 500 local youth will participate in the four-week summer camp that emphasizes friendship, positive attitude and healthy living. (Purdue University file photo/Mark Simons)

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 WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — More than 500 local youth will participate the next four weeks in a Purdue University summer camp that emphasizes friendship, positive attitude and healthy living.

The 11th PALS program, Purdue Athletes Life Success program, is for children ages 8-14 who are referred by their local schools. Monday through Friday, the campers spend time at various stations to learn about sports, art, music, money management and eating healthy. The camp began June 13, and continues through July 13.

More than 2,000 children from Tippecanoe County have participated in PALS since the first camp in 2002.

"We don't advertise this program, and yet we have a waiting list every year," says Kim Lehnen, program co-director and operations assistant for the Department of Health and Kinesiology. "We often hear from parents how their children's camp experience motivates them to be active rather than just watch TV during the summer or how it evens sparks an interest to go to college some day. We also hear from local school administrators about how they see positive changes in some of the individual children's behavior from their camp experience."

This year the program will place a greater emphasis on positive self-esteem and good citizenship by promoting themes related to service, fairness, kindness and courage.

"Eleven years ago, this camp started as a sports program, but we've evolved to focus on learning life values through physical activity and other activities," says Bill Harper, camp co-director and professor of health and kinesiology. "Everything the campers learn is something they can practice or apply throughout their life.

"We also provide a critical and positive skill set for some these children who are often at-risk for gang recruitment and other behavior problems. Our research from year to year shows that the positive friendships gained from camp lead to improved self-esteem, motivation to be physically active and that the children have positive attitudes toward their future."

This year's camp activities include soccer, judo, softball, basketball, swimming, volleyball, flag football, team building games, computer skills, painting and drawing. The camp's stations are also spaced strategically on campus so the campers walk more than an hour each day. There also will be sessions on eating right, alcohol and drug abuse prevention, and talks by motivational speakers. Purdue Federal Credit Union also offers a financial literacy component for campers.

The program is supported by many community and campus contributions, including the Division of Recreational Sports, which provides the fields, pool and other areas for activity stations, and Housing and Food Services, where the campers eat breakfast and lunch every day. Purdue University Student Health Center and many community doctors also provide free medical exams to all campers each spring.

Funding for the program is partially supported by Purdue Federal Credit Union and the Brees Dream Foundation. Drew Brees is the former All-America quarterback for Purdue, and 2010 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. A portion of the proceeds from this year's inaugural Purdue Boilermaker Half-Marathon and 5K also will support the program. This event is Oct. 20, and more information is available at http://purduehalf.com/

PALS has 60 people on staff, including 24 team leaders who are current or recent college students. About a third of these team leaders are Purdue NCAA athletes or are involved in club sports. Six of this year's team leaders are former campers themselves, and six recent campers were selected to serve as junior team leaders.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Sources: Kim Lehnen, 765-494-3178, klehnen@purdue.edu

                 Bill Harper, 765-496-2367, wharper@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Journalists interested in visiting PALS or who would like information about the program's daily schedule, please contact Amy Patterson Neubert, Purdue News Service, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu