Program focuses on need for after school activities

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

Stressing the importance of having after school programs available for children in the area, the Portales Recreation Center hosted the “Lights On Afterschool!” event Thursday evening.

It’s third year in Portales, the event featured games, snacks and face painting.

Amid the laughter and fun, several of the children colored and decorated paper light bulbs that are used as the logo for the “Lights On Afterschool!” program. After each light bulb was colored and cut out, they were then hung on a string that ran across the center.

“I like that we get to paint and that we get to play games and we get candy and bumper stickers and stuff,” said 7-year-old Jade Bartlett.

Near the end of the celebration door prizes were given away to those in attendance. Souvenirs featuring a light of some sort were also passed out. These were used at a lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. in honor of the celebration. For the first time this year, the Empire State
Building will participate in the event. At 7 p.m. Eastern time, they will light the building in honor of the “Lights On Afterschool!” celebration, said Janine Elder, event organizer.

According to the Web site, one in four youth or 14.3 million children are unsupervised and alone after school. The event is used to bring attention to the importance of after school programs to children families and communities in America.

“I think it gives us good advertising. It lets the parents know what’s offered,” said Johnny Ledbetter, Portales Recreation Center director.

Each of the three Portales events has averaged 200 children. The event offers new people in the area information about the center, Ledbetter said.

“We always end up getting new members after this,” Ledbetter said.

Over on the rock climbing wall a group of girls were busy trying to make it to the top.

“I like the candy and playing games,” said 8-year-old Adrianna Sparks, as she continued climbing the rock wall.

For Pieria May, 7, the celebration offered the chance to come visit and play with her cousins, she said.

“I like that we make new friends,” May said.

At a glance

• Launched in Oct. 2000, the “Lights On Afterschool!” celebration was celebrated in 1,200 communities nationwide.

• In 2001 there were 3,600 events held nationwide.

• In 2006, more than 7,500 celebrations were held nationwide.

• In 2007 it is estimated that one million Americans participated in this years celebration.