DALLAS — They’re anything but typical babysitters. Typical babysitters don’t have inflatable obstacle courses.
During Camp Orchard Hill’s Parents Night Out events, parents can drop their children off at the Christian camp and go to dinner, run errands or simply decompress. While parents enjoy their personal time, children have access to the camp’s gym and recreational facilities. Camp Orchard Hill Program Manager Kacey Poe, 24, oversees the event.
“I think the coolest part about it is the opportunity it creates for local parents,” Poe said. “It’s cheaper than hiring a babysitter and also, on top of that, the kids get to do fun stuff that they wouldn’t get to do with a babysitter. We open up the indoor rock wall, pull out the inflatables. If the weather permits, they can go tubing, sledding, lots of fun stuff.”
Parents Night Out is held from 5 to 8 p.m. on the third Friday of every month from September through May at Camp Orchard Hill’s 640 Orange Road location. The event is open to children ages 3 to 13, and admission is $15 per child or $10 for families with three or more children. After they’re dropped off, the children are given free time in the gym to play basketball, dodgeball or other games.
Pizza arrives at 5:30 p.m. and the group moves upstairs to the game room, which features ping pong, air hockey, foosball and more. Once everyone’s full, Poe and her team lead the children in that session’s specialized schedule of activities. On Jan. 19, attendees tried their hands at sledding and snow tubing.
Centermoreland resident Bill Bevan said his children Alex, 11, Madelyn, 8, and Makenzie, 8, are already familiar with Camp Orchard Hill, thanks to birthday parties they have attended at the camp. This was the first time he and his wife Stacy left their children at Parents Night Out, but familiarity brought comfort to their three hours of freedom.
“Having three small children that are very active and social and into different extracurricular activities, many times my wife and I don’t get an opportunity to do this,” Bill said. “It gives us three hours to go out and have dinner and share the night with our friends while we are at ease knowing the kids are here under a structured, organized program.”
If Alex’s review is any indication, his parents may get that opportunity more often.
“It was just fun,” Alex said. “I liked playing with my friends.”
Alex said he also made new friends — the social side of Parent’s Night Out is another large positive for Bill.
“You have proximity to Tunkhannock students, Lake-Lehman students, Dallas students, so they’re not only getting an opportunity to interact with students within their own age group, but also outside of their age group and outside of their comfort zone.”
For Nicky Forba’s daughter Livia, 11, Parents Night Out was fun because of her comfort zone. Livia, a Tunkhannock resident and former softball player, spent her time at Camp Orchard Hill playing softball with counselors. Nicky said she’s glad her daughter had a fun night out while she did some shopping.
“She’s home schooled and she’s the youngest of four, so it’s just something fun for her to get out and spend some time with some other kids her own age,” Nicky said.
Camp Orchard Hill’s Parents Night Out could just as easily be called Kids Night Out since it provides a change of pace for both and shows that playtime never stops being a priority — even for adults.
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