Youngsters Flock To Summer Rec Program

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The town of Payson Summer Youth Recreation Program, which started 16 years ago by Bruce Haught and Wendy Joe, continues to be a popular summertime attraction.

Each weekday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., youngsters who have completed fourth through 10th grade flock to the Rim Country Middle School gym where the free program is hosted.

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The Payson Youth Recreation program has a variety of activities to offer including hula hoop. As part of the program, the Phoenix Suns Gorilla will visit Rim Country Middle School gym from 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., June 22.

Many youngsters choose to stay inside for board games, table tennis, bumper pool and air hockey. Some shoot baskets or play three-on-three games.

Others can be found outside participating in softball, mush ball or other contests.

The youngster who attend the program are supervised by Jill Dendy, Carol Hayes, Darrin Grover and Jennifer Plumb. All are town summer employees.

The program kicked off June 14 and will continue until July 16.

Gorilla visit

A highlight of the summer will occur 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. June 22, when the Phoenix Suns Gorilla visits RCMS gymnasium.

His appearance in Payson --hich is sponsored by the Arizona Department of Health Services Anti-tobacco Program -- will feature an interactive assembly in which the Gorilla and Phoenix Fire Captain Jay Arthur will encourage youngsters to "Inhale Life, Be Tobacco Free."

According to Melanie Forthun of ADHS, the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Fire Department and state health services have partnered to teach elementary school students around the state about the dangers of tobacco use.

"During 2004, ADHS representatives along with the Gorilla and Captain Arthur will travel to 40 schools across Arizona to deliver a fun, energetic and powerful tobacco prevention message to children," Forthun said.

The assemblies, Forthun explained, "exemplify the ADHS Anti-tobacco Program's commitment to delivering tobacco-use prevention and cessation messages to children statewide through advertising, education programs and special events.

There is no admission for either performance.

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