Recreation’s ‘Super Sampler’ Offers Plenty of Summer Fun

Judy Follo, chairman of the Go Green Committee, showed off a collection of small cardboard boxes, each marked with a category of recyclable item. Cardboard items the size of puzzle pieces were spread across the front of her booth at the Super Summer Sampler. Each piece was in the shape of a glass or plastic bottle, piece of food or scrap of paper, and children were invited to put the recyclable item in the appropriate container. “They can practice their skills at recycling,” Follo said.

Or learn new ones.

It was all about new skills Friday night as the Derry Recreation Department held its first Summer Sampler event in the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School gym. More than two dozen kid-friendly community organizations set up tables to talk about what they can offer the families of Derry. And the families came.

The Derry Public Library and the Taylor Library had adjacent booths just inside the door. Taylor Library Director Linda Merrill and Children’s Librarian Fran Mears staffed the booth and promoted their summer reading program, “Fizz Boom Read!” with day-glow green T-shirts and a beanbag game. “It’s a science theme,” Merrill explained.

She and Mears have planned a full program for Taylor’s kids this summer, including the main reading promotion, their annual Carnival, a Dolly and Me tea party and a Teddy Bear sleepover. Along with the Derry Public Library and Parks and Recreation, they’ll also sponsor children’s musician Steve Blunt July 30 at 6 p.m. in MacGregor Park.

Merrill is a fan of expos such as the Summer Sampler, noting, “It gets people in and it gets the word out.”

Two Pinkerton Academy girls’ lacrosse players practiced their skills in front of their booth, while Go Green offered the chance to plant a sunflower seedling and take it home. Any child who replants the seedling can be part of the Sunflower Project, in which participants measure the declining bee population, Judy Follo said.

There were tables for Little League, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the New Hampshire Tennis Club and the Derry School District summer enrichment programs. The Derry Judo Club had a booth and gave a demonstration in the stage area.

Stacie Sager, a member of the Derry Moms Club, said her group wasn’t as well known as it could be, and that’s why she signed up for a booth. The group supports at-home moms with playgroups, Mom’s Night Out, Muffin Mornings and other events, she said.

Anjelica Ladd of The Upper Room brought her daughter Naomi, 10 months, to watch the fun. Upper Room programs serve parents and children, she said, noting that many of its support groups sponsor summer outings. “FROG (Families Reaching Our Goals) has lots of outings,” she said. The agency is also sponsoring a Cooking Matters program for both adults and kids, starting July 9, where families can learn to prepare healthy and fun meals together.

Lt. Kiley Williams of the Derry Salvation Army staffed a booth along with board members Frank Childs and Jennifer Devlin. They were promoting their free summer lunch program, which has added a Wednesday serving in Londonderry, Williams said. “We thought it was a good idea to be in the Sampler,” she said as she adjusted a corner of the Beanbag Toss game they offered. “People don’t know we offer this. But if you see something, you’ll spread the word.”

As the Red Start Twirlers replaced the Judo Club in the performance area, Recreation Coordinator Nicole Ferrante said she came up with the idea of the Sampler after people visited the department and asked questions about other available children’s programs. “We decided to hold the Sampler and invite these organizations in,” she said.

While information on the groups is available online and by phone, Ferrante said nothing beats face-to-face. Parents want to see the people who may be working with their children, she said, and the Sampler did that.

“It’s a nice way to show what’s available for everyone,” she said. “We have 27 tables this year. I hope it becomes a yearly event.”

Amy Battles kept a close eye on both her infant in a stroller and her 5-year-old as she stopped to watch the Red Star Twirlers exhibition. “This is really educational,” Battles said. “I’ve lived in Derry since 2007, and I didn’t know some of these things were here.”

So far, she and her daughter are interested in Girl Scouts, Judo – “and maybe T-ball,” Battles said.

Eric Bodenrader, director of Derry Parks and Recreation, was at his department’s table handing out leaflets on camps, concerts and the town’s two public beaches. “It is going fantastically,” he said. “It’s nice to see all the organizations in one room – it goes to show all that Derry has to offer.”