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Summer Fun is More than Just Play at The Genesis Project

Boy swimming at The Genesis Project in Oklahoma City

It’s still springtime but our boys of summer are getting an early start.

School is out, The Genesis Project’s swimming pool is open and we’ve got a season full of activities on the calendar. It may seem like a time of fun and games, but you may not know, there is a serious approach behind it all.

As a Level E Qualified Residential Treatment Program, Genesis cares for boys who are the most aggressive and impulsive for their age group. Boys learn through play. That’s why our recreation coordinator, Kalia Briggs, and assistant recreation coordinator, Devin Holt, meticulously plan events that support the boys’ therapeutic goals.

“First, keeping boys busy keeps them from being idle,” Briggs said. “In a trauma-informed environment, engagement and building relationships is key. Play is a natural way to accomplish these goals. Once the boys feel comfortable and safe enough to let go and have fun, they’ll open up and feel more comfortable dealing with deeper issues caused by abuse and trauma.”

Organized activities also keep the boys out of mischief. Inside their house, you will find a front and center dry-erase board listing all the week's activities. From roller skating at Skate Galaxy to an out-of-school bash at Hurricane Harbor, the activities give boys something to look forward to and earn.

“Our activities are considered a privilege. If their behavior is unacceptable, they won't be able to participate,” Briggs said. “The swimming pool, especially, is a great motivator to do well.”

This summer, the boys will go to Six Flags Frontier City, participate in basketball, track, soccer, and flag football at the YMCA, visit the Science Museum Oklahoma, and go bowling at Main Event. These events aren’t chosen only by Briggs or Holt, the boys help fill out the list.

“It’s important because we are incorporating their interests so they can have more choice in our restricted environment. Since entering state custody, much of their lives have been decided by others. This gives them a voice into their well-being,” Briggs said.

Voice and choice are an important component of a trauma-informed environment which includes teaching trauma awareness, an emphasis on safety, and opportunities for the boys to rebuild control through a strength-based approach. Briggs said kids give up if they don’t have a voice. It also helps them learn how to advocate for themselves appropriately.

“The activities provide new experiences for the boys. When children learn new things and develop new interests, they discover new possibilities, which gives hope,” Briggs said.

As part of our mission to successfully reintegrate the boys into a community or family, The Genesis Project tracks experiences to measure the boys’ progress. During the last two quarters, 100 percent of the boys maintained a diversity of interest. That’s up 20 percent from three quarters ago.

And the benefits are even more numerous. Staying active improves physical fitness, helps with emotional well-being, reduces anxiety and depression, develops teamwork skills, manages stress, and helps promote creative expression.

There’s a lot packed into all the fun. Sometimes, the boys may not even realize all the purpose behind it. That’s okay because it allows them to behave as typical boys, and is what we all want in the first place.