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Sports camp teaching more than athletics

Children are learning more than how to play sports at the National Youth Sports Camp.

The youth are being exposed to community service and volunteering.

"I wanted them to get a glimpse at their community and the service activities they might not typically find," said Chelsey Stephenson, project aid for the leadership team, the group spending its last two weeks at camp volunteering.

"Community service is a big part of growing up and the community."

The members of the leadership team did not seem to miss the time away from sports.

"We're helping the community and it makes you feel like you're accomplishing something," Lauren Thomson, a 12-year-old from Russell, Ky., said. "Some of us don't live here and it gives us the chance to see a different area through volunteering."

Stephenson said more youth wanted to join the group, but she could only accommodate 10 due to a lack of transportation.

So far, the team has painted poles around the Ohio University Southern campus and learned how to provide messages through drama.

The most fun many in the group said they have had was painting.

"Those poles used to be ugly and rusty and now they're white and green," Paige Harris, a 10-year-old from Russell, Ky., said.

The team members also went to the Paramount Arts Center to learn about drama.

They presented the skit, "Resse Does Drugs," to the rest of the campers Tuesday. The skit deals with the effects using drugs has on the people around the user, Stephenson said.

The team members chose the skit themselves and put thought into more than just the message.

The group said many of the other skits had multiple characters, many from popular cartoons, that would distract the campers. Also, they said the play they chose did not have flashy costumes - they wear their camp shirts.

"They would concentrate on how we look, not on what we are saying," Madison Baker, a 12-year-old from Ironton, said.

The team did think about the message though.

"It had a good message," Katelyn Withrow, a 13-year-old from Flatwoods, Ky., said. "We know there are temptations and we don't want them (the other campers) to get into something that could hurt them."

"It doesn't just affect you if you take drugs, it effects others," Harris said.

The skit goes along with the classes campers have been taking about drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention.

The team will continue the rest of the week learning how and where to volunteer, spending time at a grocery store and hospital.

"We will make an example of them to the rest of the camp," Stephenson said.

NYSP is a free five-week sports/enrichment camp for children ages 10 to 16. The program at Ohio University Southern reaches as many as 200 children a year from Lawrence County and Boyd and Greenup counties in Kentucky.