Pine City setting the standard with Summer Rec

Every year the Pine City Summer Rec program rewards the top 40 candy sellers (a fundraiser for the program) with a trip to a Minnesota Twins game.  This year they went on Saturday, July 20.

Pine City’s Summer Rec program has a rich history of serving its community, and doing so in an affordable way for families. The six-week summer program offers a wide range of sports for various ages, including T-ball, rookie league baseball, golf, track and field, flag-football, and softball, and unlike most surrounding towns, the program is free here.

“It is a zero-cost program,” Jena Dennis said. Dennis is the Pine City High School’s varsity softball coach, and the director of the Summer Rec program. She has worked in Summer Rec for 20 years and has a family history with the program.

“My grandpa, Roger Hagstrom, was one of the founders of the Summer Rec program,” Dennis said. “He and a couple other teachers worked really hard to get this program started in the late 50s, and it has been free ever since.

Dennis said that the affordability factor is very important to herself and the program as it allows young students to try out various sports without having any financial pressure on their parents.

“The cool thing about Summer Rec is, because it’s free, we’ll have a bunch of kids try everything,” she said. “They can figure this out now, what they like and don’t like.”

Dennis said that the program focuses a lot on the fundamentals of each sport and having fun, but she added that kids often times discover a new passion through playing the sports.

“You have a parent that’ll sign up a kid for tennis, and the kid’s like ‘I don’t like tennis, I don’t want to do it’, and by the end of the summer they’re there more than any other kid,” she said. “Our goal is to keep the kids busy and active—finding a way for them to use up their energy and to learn the fundamentals of the different sports that we offer.”

Dennis said that Summer Rec is its own entity. “We work with the city and with the school, but we are a non-profit.”

Dennis works with surrounding schools, coaches and other youth programs to provide the best opportunities for the Summer Rec participants. One such instance is her work with Mora coaches and the East Central Co-op to make a traveling softball team that plays nearby schools.

Dennis said that another great aspect of Pine City’s Summer Rec program is that most of the coaches are local high schoolers and college students who have played the sports. “Our workers are paid and we do that through our candy sales, and our sponsors throughout Pine City.” In fact, Dennis said that most of their costs are paid through local sponsors.

Dennis said that Summer Rec is in a fantastic spot, and that they had nearly 800 registrations for the 2019 season, with kids signed up for multiple sports double counted. “It’s pretty amazing,” she said.

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