BY MARCY SHORTUSE - Attention all island kids: The Boca Bunch is back this year, with Coach D.J. Keisling at the wheel. Their first planned activity is on Saturday, Oct. 19, when they will head to Busch Gardens in Tampa for the 2013 “Howl-o-Scream” event.
While the event is pretty full, there is still a waiting list if anyone is interested in going. You can be put on the list by calling 964-0827.
“Boca Bunch was started as an ‘extension’ of teen summer camp by Dee Wheeler and Bob Huber back in 1993,” Keisling said. “The Boca Bunch is a program of the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center. All funding has always come from them and their generous donors.”
Keisling said after Huber left in January of 1995, he came to the island through a tip from Mark Futch (D.J. was coaching Futch’s son, Matt, at Lemon Bay High School at the time, for wrestling).
“He told me of the Boca Bunch opening,” he said. “His daughter, Rey, was in seventh grade at the time and they were looking for a leader. He is a godsend as I have been here at the center ever since. I stayed with the Bunch until 1998.”
Back then the program was about providing young adults, seventh through ninth grade) with structured, supervised educational, leisure and recreational activities. They met weekly at the Community Center for tutoring, sports and game room downtime.
“The “Bunch” participated in many community service projects including beach/island clean-ups, serving as summer camp junior counselors and volunteering at the RIF evening reading nights, Halloween Carnival, Bike Parade and Easter Egg Hunt,” Keisling said. “We had monthly field trips all over Florida, and during the summer, we went weekly and on many occasions, two or three times a week to local destinations.View More images >>
“During my tenure, the “Bunch” went on overnight camping trips. Our first one and the very first trip in our brand new 15-passenger van was an overnight in DeSoto County, when it got to 26 degrees overnight. We took college visitations and attended football games at the University of Florida (Dusty Hopkins was a chaperone), UCF and FSU.”
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