A new facility has brought a new energy to the Boys and Girls Club of Carter County’s summer camp.
The camp, which began earlier this month, is in full swing at the organization’s new building, which is located on Main Street in Ardmore. The HFV Wilson Community Center was previously home to the summer camp and its programs. The camp accepts students from the sixth to 12th grades.
 “It’s been really great to be honest,” Misty Sanders, chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Carter County, said. “The kids have been fantastic.”
The new facility, which was previously a Hallmark gift and office supply store, is an open concept and provides more space than what was previously available at the community center. Sanders said the open concept not only allows for more space, but teenagers can easily be monitored. A central area, deemed the command center, also allows attendees to easily check in and out of camp throughout the day.
“We walked in and immediately loved the open concept and the command center,” Sanders said. “(Before) we couldn’t take but 20 to 25 on a daily basis. So we were really able to double our numbers this summer.”
The building is filled with an average of 40 kids daily, with sounds of pool tournaments, ice hockey and kids calling dibs on the Xbox resonating in the air. The expansion of space has led to more opportunities for the teens. On Tuesday, a group painted a message for the pilots coming into Ardmore for the Air Race Classic today and tomorrow. The message, written in orange spray paint on the grass at the Ardmore Downtown Executive Airport, reads “Welcome to Ardmore” and will be read by the pilots making their seventh stop of the 2,400 mile race.
Sanders said in addition to painting the message the teenagers got an up-close and personal look at the planes at the airport.
“It was a good experience. I’ve never really been around planes before,” CJ Landum, one of the teenagers who went to the airport, said. “It was good that we got to go out and do something. I’ve never really gotten to be up close to a plane or been inside one or anything.”
“A lot of our kids haven’t been out there (the airport) before,” Sanders said. “So just to see ‘oh wow we have this’ and it’s just a great opportunity for our kids to see something bigger than Ardmore.”
The summer camp has been kept busy with a collection of different activities, including life skills classes, visits to the Ardmore Water Park, YW8 classes and acting classes at the Goddard Center. Sanders said while the new building provides the teens a relaxed atmosphere, the structured classes and activities have been successful.
“They do have options to do what they want within the building,” she said. “We try to keep them very busy.”
The students also volunteer at Ardmore Animal Care every other Tuesday to walk, pet, play with and care for dogs and cats at the facility. Sanders described the activity as “a great opportunity for them to just care for something other than themselves,” adding that many of the students leave the shelter wanting to adopt an animal they became attached to during the visit.
Sanders said the larger facility has allowed the club to open its doors to more families, which helps reduce the number of students that have nowhere to go during the summer break. The camp also provides breakfast and lunch, with food donated and provided by DOT Foods. Sanders said Ardmore has a strong need for community outlets for students, particularly during the summer, and the new building has allowed the Boys and Girls Club to expand its reach.
“It’s very essential,” Sanders said of places students can go during the summer. “It’s our first year really on a full scale to do this.
“By the end of this we want them to be ready to enter adulthood and be productive.”