Diana Nemet and Jennifer Antonow founded Camp Iris Way, which runs this week from 9 a.m. to noon, so neighborhood kids could play games, do arts and crafts and meet the other children on the block. The camp is for kids ages 4-15 living on Iris and one nearby street.
Nemet and Antonow decided that they wanted to encourage the kids in their neighborhood to go outside and play after the pair of mothers read blogs on Playborhood.com, a Menlo Park-based website.
"We decided to do it the first week of summer so that the kids could get to know each other more and can play together for the whole summer," Antonow said.
The two sent out e-mails and printed fliers to get other neighborhood parents involved. While Nemet and Antonow originally thought they would only attract enough kids to fill a back yard, the camp directors ended up with 44 of the approximately 60 kids living in the neighborhood. With so many parents wanting their children to participate, Nemet and Antonow had to call the City of Palo Alto to get permission to have part of the street blocked off.
"The idea was for kids to open their front door and come outside to play," Nemet said. "We never thought it would be this big. It's been wonderful to see how much they're already bonding."
The older kids are counselors and the fifth- and sixth-graders are counselors in training. The camp is broken up into four teams to make things more manageable. Each team has two counselors who run the activities for the day.
"I'm moving into this neighborhood over the summer so it's a cool way to meet everyone," said 14-year-old counselor Rachel Wood. "Most of the kids have seen each other in the neighborhood but didn't know them. They became friends really fast."
Stations are set out every morning for the kids to play foursquare and hula hoop. At 9:30 a.m., campers join their teams and play games. After that, they break for a snack and then do an activity with the rest of the campers.
"We let the counselors decide what activities everyone will be doing," Nemet said. "We want the kids to run the camp."
Many other parents have gotten involved. There's a snack coordinator, camp banker, photographer, art supply person, equipment coordinator and two T-shirt coordinators.
Each day the camp moves to a different part of Iris in order for each kid to show the others where they live.
"It's great having all the kids grow up together," said Cathy Vieara, a mother of twins participating in the camp. "We're currently living in Mountain View because we're rebuilding our house on Iris. My kids stay connected to the neighborhood through camp."
The neighborhood kids have already started playing together in their free time.
"Yesterday after camp my doorbell wouldn't stop ringing," Nemet said. "The kids from camp kept coming over asking my kids to come out and play. As far as I'm concerned, mission accomplished."
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