By ELENA GRANDE
For Your Niskayuna
NISKAYUNA — With the promise of more snowstorms to follow and chilly days to endure this winter, the Schenectady JCC found the beginning of February to be a perfect time to remind people that warm weather does exist, and will be back in a few months.
The Jewish Community Center held its annual Mid-Winter Summer Blowout event Feb. 1, and about 300 people came to celebrate summer in the dead of winter.
Kids could be seen scattered around the building, jumping with laughter and joy at the bouncy house, toying with various gadgets and gizmos at one station and even making friends with some warm and playful therapy dogs.
At the entrance to the festive building, a table held handouts that listed the event schedule and a giant raffle ticket that promised a prize to those who made it to all the stations offered at the event.
Various giveaways were offered at each stop , including a small portable bottle of suntan lotion, a nice touch that reminded people they eventually will be able to trade in their heavy coats for swimsuits.
A visit to any of the 12 stations throughout the event helped community members forget the many woes of winter and focus on the exciting things to come with summer.
Although the event welcomes those of all ages, children clearly seemed to derive the most joy from the activities.
Mary Hogan, owner of CompuChild, a computer-based program designed for young learners, recognizes and appreciates the fostering and development of youth that is emphasized by the JCC.
She cites the midwinter event as another example of the JCC’s continued effort to cultivate children’s desire to learn and grow.
“This event is a great way to get the community to come together,” Hogan said. “It also gives programs like CompuChild the exposure for parents to see what their children are doing.”
One look around the classrooms of the building and anyone could see that the children were engaging in stimulating, interactive and educational activities that simultaneously emphasized the fun of summertime activities at the JCC.
In fact, many staff members would argue that summer is when the JCC is at its busiest and liveliest. Although the center functions year-round, many activities don’t begin until the shorts and sunglasses come out.
The summer season allows the public to utilize the outdoor swimming pool, and gives children a chance to leave their couches and computer screens to learn new things, make memories and establish friendships, especially during summer camps. Arts and crafts for the younger crowd offered a hint of the fun and games to come.
Kids enjoyed making animal-themed puppets while Summer Camp Director Val Krawczyk and her fellow summer staff answered questions from parents whose children had never been to camp at the JCC, which spans most of the school break, late June to the end of August.
This year’s theme for Camp Chaverim is “Summer in the Safari.”
The best reminder of sunshine and warmth came from last year’s camp. It was just a highlight video on a television, but it still seemed to raise spirits.
Krawczyk and the rest of the summer staff found the event to be a great way to advertise the sorts of activities available to children and young teens at the JCC in the warmer months.
Most of the JCC was populated by boisterous children milling around, giggling with excitement over the various games and activities set up around the building. But there was also a quiet zone, a room filled with a small pack of therapy dogs that offered a calmer environment and allowed kids to wind down from all the sun-themed excitement.
As the activities concluded and the buzz of excited children slowly dissipated, it was clear that the JCC had succeeded in providing a break from winter. And for some, it was a preview of summer.
“What better time to start thinking of summer than in the middle of winter?” Executive Director Mark Weintraub said. “The event lets the community come in and experience the JCC and see if this is something that can fit into their lifestyle.”