Originally published March 11, 2020 in The Bridgeport News.
By Jonathan Weaver
An evening child activity that mixes nutrition with physical activity will debut in Bridgeport next week.
The Virginia-based Camp4Real will bring its Kids Night Out program to Johnson Elementary School for youth aged 5-12 on March 13.
“We’re pretty big down in Charlottesville, and I think we can do the same in Bridgeport and Clarksburg,” founder Scott Williams said. “We’re getting into West Virginia because I have a good family and friend base (here) while we also try to expand to Virginia Beach.
“I knew that Johnson Elementary would be a good spot for a Kids Night Out.”
Johnson Elementary’s event will be held from 6-9 p.m. at varying costs, but scholarships are available.
“It really sounds like a great way to give kids something different to do while getting them out and active,” Johnson Elementary physical education teacher Ali Burton said. “As a former physical education teacher, Scott obviously has a passion for this and making it available for other kids.”
Burton, who will be helping out with the March 13 event, learned about the Kids Night Out program through husband Grant. Grant is not only a Bridgeport graduate and friend of Williams, but also Bridgeport High School’s assistant volleyball coach, assistant basketball coach and assistant track coach.
“It sounded like something I’d like to get involved in, so we’re trying to get the word out there,” Ali Burton said. She said similar programs were not held earlier this year at Johnson Elementary or while she taught for five years at Big Elm Elementary in Shinnston.
A Robert C. Byrd High and Fairmont State University graduate, Williams brainstormed the idea while working as a physical education teacher from 2004 through June at Meriwether Lewis School in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We had a very successful and popular (physical education) program through our PTO, and whenever we would offer any type of after school classes, we’d get anywhere from 30 to 50, 60 kids signing up. One of my colleagues said, ‘your classes are getting so popular — you should run your own summer camp,’ he said.
“At the same time, I was trying to make some positive changes in our school lunch policy in Albermarle County (but) was having no luck at all, so when I got that encouragement I told myself that I should because then I get to choose what (students) choose from.”
While the Enrichment Zone after school program offered flag football and ultimate Frisbee games, dance classes, speed stacking and other physical and non-traditional activities Williams couldn’t focus on during a gym class period, Kids Night Out mixes the physical and non-traditional activities with fun ways to learn nutritional aspects through games.
Founded in 2011, Williams said Kids Night Out events are also a three-hour preview of Camp4Real’s summer program. The summer camps are currently held in Charlottesville and Virginia Beach, Virginia starting in June.
Williams also promotes his activities at national physical education conferences, and thought highly of Ali Burton’s ability to help emphasize his mission.
“She’s very passionate about physical education and nutrition, so we just hit it off really well,” Williams said. “I only recruit the most dynamic, enthusiastic and motivated educators to work with me. Thankfully there are a lot of those in Charlottesvile and it sounds like Ali is going to fit in really well, too.”
Helping Burton at Johnson Elementary’s event will be Nutter Fort Primary Physical Education Teacher Frankie Secret. Williams coached Secret in youth Jerry West basketball.
The Johnson Elementary event will also be Secret’s first time at a Kids Night Out and his first time at the Bridgeport elementary school.
“I’ll help (Williams) out as much as I can,” Secret said. “I think it will be a fun event for kids to get out and be active, learn about healthy foods. A good, positive event for both communities so hopefully we can get as many kids there as we can.”
Parents intrigued by the Kids Night Out option are encouraged to visit https://camp4real.regfox.com/kids-night-out-at-johnson-elementary-bridgeport-wv
Elementary-aged students throughout the region are also welcome to register.
Williams also hopes to expand a four-day summer camp to Bridgeport.