A hardy group of middle school kids from the Key Peninsula spent a cold December day tidying up the grounds at Camp Stand By Me in preparation for the grand opening of the camp’s new yurt.

According to Jessica Smeall, Key Pen Parks recreation director, the youngsters are all part of Park PALS. “That stands for People who All Love to Serve,” Smeall said with a smile.

Approximately 60 kids are members of the Park PALS program.

“They can pick and choose what they want to do in terms of service,” Smeall said. “We had 13 of them who chose to help rake leaves at the camp.”

It turned out to be a record-setting cold day, but the weather didn’t chill the kids’ spirits.

Jonathan Beal was volunteering for the first time with the leaf-raking crew. “It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “We want the place to look nice when all the people come to see the yurt.”

Dylan Van der Vank, 13, is an old hand at helping with projects like this. He’s been a PALS volunteer for a year.

“I’ve helped in about seven things like this,” he said. “There were a lot of leaves all over the place and we wanted the place to look nice for the opening of their new yurt. It’s for people with disabilities and we just like to help out the parks and make our community a better place.”

Van der Vank added that other kids can volunteer for Park PALS, too, by contacting Smeall at Key Pen Parks. “It’s really fun to do things like this,” he said.

For information, email jessica@keypenparks.com.

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