story & photo
by Vito J. Leo
The annual “Youthtopia” field day is the centerpiece among all the variety of events offered by the Griswold Youth Center, the cornerstone of the town’s programs designed to engage youngsters when they are not in school. “This is a good day, lots of fun,” said Catherine Forbes, Griswold, who, like many other parents at Griswold Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday, May 30, was enjoying the family day.
Griswold Middle School eighth grader Aaron Longo said he heads over to the youth center four or five times a week. “I like playing basketball there and they have video game contests. It’s lots of fun there,” he said.
“This gives the kids a good way to interact with one other,” Catherine said. “You know, Griswold is a small place and there’s not much to do, so things like this, the youth center, helps keep kids out of trouble.”
Canterbury resident Dylan Seifert, a senior at Griswold High, helps at the center because he believes that the center produces results. “It keeps kids off the street that [otherwise] would be hanging out on the streets,” Dylan said.
The center, with 60 registered members, is the most visible arm of the Griswold Youth and Family Services, according to Ryan Aubin, director, who also oversees the Griswold Recreation Department.
Ryan said “Youthtopia” attracted about 500 families and raised more than $1,000 for the youth center to help pay for the many programs offered by the center. Visit the group’s Web site at www.griswoldyfs.com for additional information.
“We had 30-plus youth center staff and summer recreation program personnel staffing the event,” said Ryan. In addition to the usual fun, games and food, “Youthtopia” also has an educational component to it. Various booths were set up to distribute information aimed at helping youngsters more easily cope with the pressures of growing up.
Backus Hospital’s smoking prevention trailer was at the park staffed by Registered Nurse Melissa Bargnesi, Norwich. “We’ve had more than 50 young people come in today. We try to give them information, different ways that will help them resist the peer pressure to start smoking,” she said.
Dylan Dick, 12, appreciated the helping hand. Asked what he would do if friends told him it was cool to smoke, Dylan immediately responds, “I’d rather be dumb than cool.”