Kids chill out at the ice arena this summer

The After School Program brings back its popular drop-in camp

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Farmington Press | Published June 3, 2013

 Campers get ready to navigate the ropes course during an excursion with the summer drop-in program last year.

Campers get ready to navigate the ropes course during an excursion with the summer drop-in program last year.


It’s not long before school is out for summer, which means the city of Farmington Hills’ After School Program is getting ready for some vacation fun at the Summer Drop-In Program.

The drop-in program, housed at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena, is in its 15th year, according to Todd Lipa, director of Youth and Family Services for the city of Farmington Hills.

“We started the After School Program in 1996, and by 1998 we had a number of kids and parents begging us to do something in the summer,” he said. “It was just a need in the community from parents wanting to have their kids busy, kids wanting to be busy in the morning and early afternoon hours, and there was nothing available for fifth- through eighth-graders at the time.”

Years later, the Summer Drop-In Program has grown to be a favorite for kids looking to spend their summer vacation the way it was meant to be spent: being active, having a good time and burning off all the energy they’ve pent up through the year sitting behind a school desk.

The 10 a.m.-4 p.m. program boasts a full schedule of activities, from ice skating, soccer, baseball and other sports, to board games, video games and more. A variety of field trips are planned for throughout the eight-week program, including a stop at the water park each Friday.

According to Kitty Ostach, youth program coordinator for Youth and Family Services for the city of Farmington Hills, the summer schedule is packed with fun things for the kids to do throughout the season. Over the years, and having served more than 11,000 Farmington/Farmington Hills youth, counselors have a pretty good idea of what campers are in to.

“We go to a Tigers game, we do zip line and a low-ropes course, and Zap Zone. We get them outside a lot, too. We go out and we fish or kayak. We really get them up and moving,” she said.

Kids can buy lunch at the arena’s concession area, or pack a lunch to keep costs down. And, of course, campers can bring games from home to share with their friends if, for some reason, they find themselves without something to do. But, with the ample sports resources and activities available at the ice arena, that’s not a likely scenario.

Of course, Lipa added, organizers have taken great care to ensure the program is just as convenient for parents as it is fun for the youngsters. Shuttle pick-up stations have been designated at the Costick Center and the Jon Grant Youth Center, so parents don’t have to drive all the way to the ice area to drop off their camper. There’s also an early care option available, so parents can drop off their child as early as 7:30 a.m., if their work schedule calls for it.

But perhaps the biggest draw, Lipa said, is the price of the program. The $275 registration fee plus a $40 year-long membership to the After School Program, he said, is considerably less than comparable summer camps.

“We try to keep our field trips affordable, so we don’t do things that are really costly. We just try to cover our transportation, our staffing and admission (to our destination),” he said, adding that several organizations in the area donate funds and resources to keep costs down for families. “The Farmington/Farmington Hills Community Foundation, the Xemplar Club, PKC Group, the Riley Foundation, different ‘mom and pop’ businesses — everybody puts in a little bit, and it helps keep it affordable so every child can go to a summer camp.”

Registration has started for the program, and according to Ostach, returning campers have already been clamoring to find out what activities are in store for them this summer. Her response: “Whatever you want.”

“We listen to the kids, really and truly, if the kids give us an idea. They might say, ‘You don’t have any yogurt. Could you buy some yogurt?’ Sure. Or they’ll suggest a board game, and we’ll buy it. It’s their program; it’s their idea. We’re just working for them,” she said.

Farmington/ Farmington Hills residents can sign up their students at the Costick Center, 28600 W. 11 Mile Road, or at the Farmington Hills Ice Arena, 35500 W. Eight Mile Road. For more information, call (248) 473-1841 or visit and follow the departments tab to the Youth and Family Services page.