Columbus Recreation and Parks Receives OPRA Award for the LiFEsports+ Summer Camp


November 11, 2022 • Sports

COLUMBUS – The Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) today announced that Columbus Recreation and Parks Department received its Award of Excellence for its partnership with The Ohio State University to offer the LifeSports summer camp in the "Sports" category, which recognizes the outstanding youth or adult sports programs or events that improve the community. OPRA’s annual awards program recognizes organizations throughout Ohio that embody the vision, dedication and demonstration of excellence in parks and recreation. 

Given the negative impacts of COVID-19 on student learning that still exist today, there is increasing need in the community to expand summer programming for central Ohio’s most vulnerable youth. To address this gap, Columbus Recreation and Parks partnered with The Ohio State University Foundation to offer LiFEsports+ Summer Camp for the third summer in 2022.

Recognized as a national model for other university programs serving at-risk youth, LiFEsports+ Summer Camp serves youth ages 5-14 for eight weeks in the summer. The camp utilizes sports to teach four main social skills: self-control, effort, teamwork and social responsibility (S.E.T.S.). Camp staff followed a detailed curricula designed to use sport to teach S.E.T.S. The camp’s goal was to document increases in participants’ social skills, sport-specific skills, healthy lifestyle behaviors and sense of belonging.

Daily activities incorporated scenarios and role-plays where youth practiced the application of skills to other settings. Each day, youth participated in two sport activities, one play-based social skill educational activity, one science activity and one health/wellness lesson. Eight different sports were utilized to reinforce social skills throughout camp including baseball, basketball, dance, football, lacrosse, swimming, tennis and volleyball. Youth were provided with free breakfast and lunch each day.

“The last several years have been hard on our community, and even more so for our youth. With remote learning, the uncertainty of the pandemic and isolation, children have struggled mentally, physically and emotionally,” said Bernita A. Reese, CPRP, director of Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. “Columbus Recreation and Parks and Ohio State stepped up to give youth a safe, supportive place to be active, enhance their social skills and prepare for the coming school year.”

In 2022, the program served 221 of the City’s most vulnerable youth. Participants reported the camp advanced their development:

  • 89% of youth participants reported they “can better control my feelings” because of LiFEsports+
  • 75% reported that they learned to always give their all
  • 80% reported they try to do the right thing when no one is watching
  • 5% said they learned to act responsibly when playing sports
  • 83% said they use S.E.T.S. in their school, home, or community

“Columbus Recreation and Parks is a critical part of our community, and part of that is helping our youth prepare for a successful future by improving their physical and mental wellbeing,” Reese said. “The recognition from OPRA underscores the impact our staff have on our community, and their dedication to our residents.”

Columbus Recreation and Parks Receives OPRA Award for the LiFEsports+ Summer Camp