Community Connections: Hayden’s secret weapon | SteamboatToday.com
Athena Frentress/For Steamboat Today

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Community Connections: Hayden’s secret weapon

Hayden is a quiet little town nestled in the floor of the Yampa Valley, lying alongside the river of the same name. It has tidy yards and tree-lined streets, suitable for a place that is more than 100 years old.

Yet, these are not the things that make Hayden the unique place to raise a family it actually is. Hayden has a secret — a secret weapon, if you will. About 20 years ago, a group was concerned about the opportunities for young families in this little hamlet. Rather than just complain, they formed a 501c3, and Totally Kids was born.

Since then, Totally Kids has done exactly what its name implies: taken care of the needs of kids in Hayden. It is not part of the school, nor is it part of the town of Hayden Parks and Recreation Department. It has remained a stand-alone entity providing programs for Hayden's youth.

Often, the programs vary, as the idea is to serve the changing dynamics of youngsters and their families. However, one facet continues to serve as the centerpiece of Totally Kids: the school age care programs — Before and After School and Summer Day Camp programs.

All three of these programs are operated through an agreement with Hayden School District which generously allows use of classroom space. A light breakfast is served to the children who come before school and find a warm place to finish homework, work on reading or just wait for the school day to begin.

These students are not home alone or standing for long periods of time at a cold, dark bus stop. The After School Program, likewise, provides an affordable situation for children. There are 32 students enrolled in the Afterschool Program so far this year. Homework assistance, playtime, and tutoring all are part of the daily routine. Totally Kids also expanded the After School Program this year, providing day camps for the Fridays off in Hayden's school schedule.

The Summer Day Camp is without question the most heavily utilized part of the Totally Kids school-age care component. Children are taken to the Strings in the Mountains concerts, hiking, fishing, movies and weekly swimming trips, along with trips to local museums, libraries and other points of interest. This year, 79 students were enrolled.

In a school district that averages fewer than 200 elementary-school-age children, it is easy to see what an impact the program has. For the past four years, Totally Kids has been part of a USDA program to provide free meals to children ages one to 18 in the Hayden community, and this year, more than 5,200 meals were served to youth.

Throughout the years, Totally Kids has been funded through a combination of fundraisers, enrollment fees and very generous grants and donations. Totally Kids programs have always accepted all comers, never turning away a child with disabilities, special health concerns or inability to pay. Scholarships are available for families who find themselves challenged by the cost of the programs.

The secret weapon that Totally Kids has is a board of deeply committed volunteers, caring adults and young adult counselors, as well as the support of the citizens of the town of Hayden and the Hayden School District. Totally Kids, Inc. also provides a variety of specialized programs for elementary-aged children. From swim lessons to recreational soccer, from dance classes for toddlers to summer enrichment classes for school age children, we strive to meet the needs and desires of the community in a flexible and responsive fashion.

The opportunity to introduce and explain the Totally Kids organization and programs has been an honor.

Athena Frentress is a Totally Kids, Inc., board member. Totally Kids, Inc. was incorporated in October 1994. It has a five-person board of directors and has worked to provide services to the youth in the Hayden area since its inception. The group responds to the changing needs of the community and works in collaboration with other organizations.