Inside the Vidalia Junior High School gymnasium everyday is game day

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

On any given weekday this summer, the Vidalia Junior High School Gym is in controlled chaos. Walls are lined with kids who are saddled up to tables in deep concentration as they play games like Checkers, Connect Four and Uno. At one table, Jalen Smith, 5, is playing an intense game of Checkers with her opponent, 14-year-old Whitley Riley.

&uot;That’s her game face,&uot; Charles Matthews, director of the Vidalia Recreation summer program, says to describe the Smith’s look of intensity.

For 37 years, Matthews has worked the free program for area children. Matthews, a retired Concordia Parish teacher, says he has seen many generations of families come through the program.

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A child is never lacking an activity, which probably is the secret to the program’s success. Choices in games are seemingly endless.

Free breakfast and lunches in the cafeteria fuel the children as they take on mind-exercising games and physical activities like ping-pong, basketball and tennis.

The program is one of two (the other is held at Vidalia High School) sponsored by the Concordia Recreation District 3 and is funded by property taxes.

&uot;It’s excellent,&uot; says Secretary to the Board of Directors of Recreation District 3 Lula Caldwell. &uot;It provides something for the children in the summer.&uot;

The program runs until July 30, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 in the afternoons. Breakfast is offered from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. and lunch is offered from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.