What started as a free arts camp for area youth at the Hope Center has blossomed into an arts, recreation and sports camp program.

The Refuge is a youth program within the Hope Center services. Refuge director David Massie said the center, 212 Chestnut St., is running free arts, baseball, basketball, cheer, dance and football camps one day a week all summer. But it started with one arts camp last summer.

“There was an Otterbein class for local people in the community here, and for a service project, they were supposed to start a ministry or something along those lines,” Massie said. “In meeting with us, they had some people in there that really had some passion for the arts. So they partnered with the Hope Center, and we started the art class last summer.”

This summer, art classes began June 14 and conclude Aug. 2, with sessions running from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays for ages 5-12.

Massie said about 20 children attended last year, and about as many are participating again.

The idea to expand into sports camps came about when a couple from the community, Doug and Betty Lassiter, approached the Hope Center about bringing sports camps they had begun last year under the center’s umbrella this year.

“So the football and basketball camp was really a continuation of what they had done in the past,” Massie said. “Obviously, we were ecstatic about that.”

“Betty and I piloted the idea last year with a basketball camp and football camp,” Doug Lassiter said. “We wanted to see what the interest would be and get a feel for what it would take to put one on.

“Somewhere along the line, God pressed upon me the idea of using camps to be a positive Christian influence in the lives of our youth. The more I talked about it with Betty and leaders from the local Church, the more the vision evolved.”

Lassiter said he had a concern about youth who don’t receive instruction in the fundamentals of sports.

“We believe there are many athletes and coaches sitting in the pews of our churches that can fill this gap,” Lassiter said.

Lassiter said last year’s camps were run every week through June and July. About 25 youth attended the basketball camp, and 20 attended the football camp over the course of the summer, he said.

“The number of attendees so far is about the same,” he said. “I expect the football camp numbers will grow in July, when I promote it to MJFA coaches.”

Massie said the idea of a baseball camp came up becomes some of the interns at the Hope Center play baseball at Marysville High School.

“We thought a great way to utilize their skills and use them would be to start a baseball camp,” Massie said.

A recent Marysville High School graduate and former cheerleader approached the Hope Center with the idea of doing dance and cheer camps.

“We again thought what better way to use her talents and abilities than to use her to teach children arts and dance skills and cheer techniques,” Massie said. “And really just kind of foster the love of those things which are a passion to her.”

Massie said more than 20 students have been attending each dance class and cheer camp thus far this summer.

The football camp began with about 12 on the first day and it’s slowly grown each day.

“And we’re expecting it to grow throughout the summer to the end,” Massie said. “And the basketball started off with about 15 and is slowly growing too.”

Massie said he hopes to continue to grow the camps in the future.

“Maybe if people with interest in other sports present themselves, we’ll expand into other sports as well,” he said.

Lassiter said he would like to add a coaches class or seminar that empowers Christian coaches to be a positive influence in the lives of youth.

“I hope we are able to put together this class/seminar early next year,” Lassiter said.

The dance and cheer camps run through Aug. 2. Dance camps for ages 3 to 6 are 10 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays; camps for ages 7-12 are 10 to 11:30 a.m. Thursdays. Cheer camps for ages 5-12 are 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays.

Basketball camp runs 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Thursdays through July 27 at the Green Pastures courts and is for those entering grades 4-8.

The football skills camp is held from 5 to 7:15 p.m. Mondays through July 24. It is for those entering grades 4-8.

The baseball skills camp is held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays through July 26 at Eljer Park, 409 E. Ninth St.

For more information, go online to www.hopecenterohio.org/summerofhope.php.