By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
In its first year, between 4,000 and 5,000 people attended O.K. Kids (Outdoor Kansas for Kids) Day events across the state.
Since 2001, that number has steadily grown, and now, more than 13,000 Kansas youth, along with their parents and grandparents, get to enjoy a day outdoors.
The goal of O.K. Kids Day is to get kids into the outdoors and having fun through a wide variety of activities, including hiking, canoeing, fishing, biking, hunting and bird watching.
Sites throughout the state will be hosting one-day events, including one locally Saturday at Meade Lake State Park.
Each site has the freedom to create its own unique experience for participants. Michelle Myers, chairman of the O.K. Kids Day event at Meade Lake, said different ideas are always being considered for the event.
“Some of the things stay the same, but we always try to add that new thing,” she said.
The fun begins at 8 a.m. Saturday with a fishing derby, and in conjunction with the derby, Myers said one of the new activities for this year’s O.K. Kids Day is casting lessons.
“A lot of people don’t know how to run a fishing people.”
Some favorites will be back this year, including laser tag and archery, and Myers said there will be life size tepees at Meade Lake.
“We have jumpers. We have the Kansas Wild Turkey Federation. We have crafts. We have trails and tracks,” she said of some of the other activities for kids. “We have so many things out there for the kids to do.”
There will be a free lunch served at noon, and kids can continue their day with other activities such as a wing shoot and flying frogs. The lunch will be provided by local and corporate sponsors, as will numerous prizes, but people must be present to win.
Myers said the O.K. Kids program at Meade Lake started in 2003, and after starting out with about 200 to 300 kids in its first year, the numbers have risen along with the state’s.
“Now, we have grown to more than 1,400 people,” she said.
Myers said she is expecting about that many for this year’s event.
“We are hoping for that,” she said. “There’s some old stuff and some new things. It just all depends on how the weather goes.”
Many organizations will be participating Saturday, including the Boy Scouts, the Meade County Fire Department, EMS, DARE, the Liberal Police Department and 4-H.
Myers said officials are still looking for volunteers for both morning and afternoon activities.
“Our day starts about 5 a.m.,” she said. “They would be anywhere from helping to relieve stations or to run a station or with serving of the lunch, clean up, directing people where they need to go, registration. There’s just a wide variety. They need to report to registration.”
Myers said there is a group of about 50 regulars who volunteer for O.K. Kids Day at Meade Lake, but she said any additional help would make the day easier.
To volunteer, call the Park Office at (620) 873-2572 or speak to officials at the registration desk Friday or Saturday morning. Pre-registration will be available all day Friday at the Park Office or after 6 p.m. at the Visitor Center. People can also register starting at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Visitor Center.
Myers said O.K. Kids Day is a family-oriented event with something for all ages.
“We have something for the little kids who are just walking, toddler age on up to age 16, but there’s something for everybody to do,” she said.
This is Myers’ third year of working with the event and her second as chair.
“It’s been kind of fun,” she said.
Myers added the idea of O.K. Kids is to get kids into the great outdoors and experiencing wildlife.
Myers said her family, including previous and future generations, have always been involved with the outdoors, and she believes today’s youth do not utilize what is available in the great wide open.
“So many times, people just sit out in front of the TV and video games, and this encourages families to get out there and enjoy the state parks and the lake,” she said.
Some experts indicate children’s physical contact with nature has been drastically reduced in the last few decades, and one of the goals of O.K. Kids Day is to help reverse this trend. To do this, the Kansas Wildscape Foundation has set a goal of involving 10,000 youth in outdoor activities on one specific day.