North Coast offers unique summer opportunities


By Sue Cody


UB18Bring out the bats and balls, swim suits, boats, floats and camping gear – it’s summertime. Baseball, basketball, football and volleyball camps are all familiar summer rituals. But kids here on the North Coast get a few unique opportunities for summer activity.


Kids are lying on the soccer field, thrashing their arms and legs imitating a dying cockroach. First- through eighth-graders are enjoying crazy fun at Camp Kick-A-Lot.


Teenagers over at the North Coast Food Web are inside cooking, while other teens paint a mural on the side of the building. Yet more teens are creating a play to present at the Performing Arts Center. All three groups are part of Upward Bound, a federal program to prepare students for college.


And then there is Seaside Oregon Family Adventures in Surfing (SOFA), which offers free surf camps for local kids and their parents or guardians.


These healthy activities and education opportunities reflect The Way to Wellville’s focus on Community Wellness and Economic Opportunity.


Soccer 5Soccer camp


Camp Kick-A-Lot celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Jerry “Big Bird” Boisvert, coach and master groundskeeper at the Warrenton soccer complex, started the event in 1996. The Lower Columbia Youth Soccer Association (LCYSA) is the sponsor.


Justin Gagnon began attending Camp Kick-A-Lot in first grade. That was 18 years ago. Now, he has graduated to director, a position he has held for three years. Even though he lives in Portland and is an internal investigator for the government, he loves the two weeks he spends kicking around a soccer ball on the coast.


“It’s for the kids,” Gagnon says. “It’s enough if I get some smiles and share some laughs with them. That keeps me coming back all these years.”


Gagnon says he became a counselor in training at the camp in eighth grade and moved up through the ranks. Nicknamed Wheelz in high school, he kept the moniker for his camp counselor title. The extended Gagnon family is involved in Camp Kick-A-Lot and LCYSA. His father, Big Wheelz, brothers, Little Wheelz and Training Wheelz all play a role as counselors, while his mother, Denise “Hot Wheelz” Gagnon is the registrar for the LCYSA recreation league.


More than 170 kids participated in the camp this year. After the first fun-filled weeklong session, many of the kids registered for the second week.


“You know you’re doing something right if they want to come back,” Justin says.


Gearing up for the fall season, Denise Gagnon says the LCYSA serves 500 kids from Clatsop County and across the river in Pacific County. The nonprofit is run exclusively by volunteers. Fall practices begin in August and the season begins Sept. 10. A limited number of scholarships are available. For information, see


UB 22Upward Bound


The local Upward Bound program serves Seaside, Warrenton and Astoria high school students from low-income families as well as those families in which neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree.


Through field trips to colleges, farms, Powell’s Books, Columbia Sportswear and Mount St. Helens, students broaden their horizons and learn of different career opportunities.


“The six-week summer academy is experiential learning,” says Moria Golub, an adviser for Upward Bound. “They are not put through testing standards. They get out of it what they put into it.”


The cooking group is studying “Food Systems, Food Conversations.” They have seen films and listened to speakers about nutrition, food access and food deserts. They visited a local organic farm and picked berries in the wild and on a U-pick farm.


“This is awesome,” says Asia Lambert, one of the students. “I like cooking with all natural ingredients that are good for you.”


As they look over the fruits, vegetables and salad they have prepared, one boy yells, “This is what I live for – hummus and pita bread!”


Wendy D’Agostino, cooking instructor at the Food Web, says, “In the fifth week, they are making more thoughtful food choices, even at home. Today they all took everything. That is better than in the past. Early on, they wanted their BLTs without the L and the T. The only second helpings they asked for were bread and mayonnaise. Now they are eating fruits and veggies.”


In the kitchen or outside, teamwork is essential to these projects. “They worked together as a team, evaluating recipes and figuring out how to approach the task,” D’Agostino says.


The mural painters also studied food and farms, looking at plants, drawing and sketching. After drawing the outlines on the Food Web wall, it became like a “coloring book project,” says project leader Miki’ala Souza.


She says, “I want them to do everything – make the decisions, create designs, themes and submit colors. We started with some inspiration and rules, but the students made all the decisions.”


“I love it,” says Sadie Wooldridge. “None of the work was decided for us. It’s a great opportunity to do something for our community.”


“We got to make our own choices, which we don’t get to do in school” says Brittany Virgillo.


As they paint, the students discuss some of the opportunities they have experienced. Adam Morse loved seeing the play, “In the Heights,” written by the same man who wrote the Broadway hit, “Hamilton.”


“It was different, but you could recognize some of the music similarities,” he says.


Visiting different college campuses was a big plus. Several students were impressed with Portland State University, while others leaned toward Linfield and Western Oregon.


Upward Bound offers stipends for reaching college-related benchmarks, Golub says. Applying for scholarships or meeting GPA goals are ways to earn the stipends. Monica Alward says the stipends can pay for the ACT and SAT tests, which are expensive.


SOFA surf campSOFA surf camp


Oregon Surf Adventures in Seaside has always been involved in teaching kids to surf. Through different programs, it has taught foster kids and students from Portland and Bend.


“We wanted to do something for kids here,” says Lauren Ahlgren, a founder and instructor. “We wanted to teach all kids, not just those in a program.”


So the organization created Seaside Oregon Family Adventures in Surfing (SOFA) to build positive relationships between children and their parents or guardians. It provides all the equipment and offers the SOFA camps free of charge, through grants and donations.


The next camp is from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5. Preregistration is required. For information, call 503-436-1481. Another session may be added Ahlgren says.


“We can teach kids how to be safe in the water along with parents, so the parents can bring them surfing again,” Ahlgren says.


Ocean awareness, including currents, safety, courtesy and surfing skills, are all part of the instruction. Awards are given after the instruction and a mini competition. A pizza party follows.


Ahlgren says, “We want to encourage kids to connect with the ocean.”