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Column: Summertime filled with fun, lifelong lessons

“The tans will fade, but the memories will last forever.” – Unknown

Wait for it. Wait for it … summer! Finally, we can declare its arrival. The season we wait for all year long is here.

Summer is short here. Like a small North Dakota town, if you blink, you may miss it. But, in spite of it’s short duration, summer is often filled with the most fun and perhaps, greatest life impact. And while summer is favored by nearly all of us, it’s really a season made for kids.

When school is out for summer, kids are in for fun. Camps are held for all interests – sports, art, religion, science. You name it and there’s a camp for it. And if not at camp, there’s time at the lake, backyard barbecues, babysitting and going to the county fair. The options for summertime fun are never-ending.

For me, summertime afternoons at the pool were the best. I’d ride my yellow bike with a huge – I mean huge – white padded seat to the Wahpeton pool. I’d stand in line with a beach towel around my neck and a coin-filled sandwich bag in my hand, hoping to be the first one to splash in the ripple free water.

Every day, my friend and I would stay until closing time, practicing our backwards somersaults into the deep end and tossing in pennies to find. By summer’s end, I wore out at least three swimsuits and needed at least one replacement pool pass. My pale skin was tanned and my blonde hair had more than a tinge of green. Plain and simple, my summer was amazing.

What felt like nothing but fun as a kid, turned into my first real job. As a teen, I became a member of the park district’s “pool management team.” As lifeguards and swimming instructors, we not only taught lessons and kept a vigilant eye on everyone, but we also started our 12-hour shifts with cleaning bathrooms at 7 a.m. My swimming fun led me to experience first-hand the value of hard work, the importance of responsibility and the impact of mentoring others.

Because summer experiences shape everyone, summertime activities are a key component of the YWCA’s Study Buddies and emergency shelter child care programs. No matter who you are, the summer season is inevitable. Time moves forward, whether we like it or not. But the fun of summer isn’t guaranteed, especially for homeless children escaping domestic violence. Unfortunately, these kids often have summer experiences that are unimaginable. And without the structured routine of school, the increased hours of sunshine are long and lonely.

Fortunately, thanks to generous donations for camp tuition, zoo and pool passes, homeless kids in our program will enjoy a taste of summertime’s best fun. Hopefully, the time they spend with us will be a new season in their life, where fun and structure meet, giving them a new opportunity to learn and grow. And if we’re successful, this summer will be a positive life experience that will last well beyond their suntans.

Erin Prochnow is the executive director of the YWCA Cass Clay. She can be reached at