By Cassandra Wilder- Guest Contributor
I love Erie. I know that’s not always the most popular thing to say, but I was born and raised here. I’ve had ample opportunity to leave- for college, for jobs, or just because my husband used to get into moods where he wanted to leave. At the end of the day, there is no where else I’d rather raise my family and grow old and our community makes Erie a fun place to raise a kid.
There are so many organizations that offer activities for young kids for free or extremely cheap. My spawn is only 4, so that’s the age range I have the most experience with. But most activities go up to 12, and at that point I figure we can sign him up for school stuff and call it a day.
The Erie Otters have a kids club, where you sign your kid up and they get free tickets to games, a shirt, and some other stuff. The Erie Seawolves have a similar program, and both are free for kids 12 and under. There’s also a Kids Bowl Free program in Erie, where the kids get to bowl free and you can pay $10 to get an adult membership. There’s also a youth bowling league at East Way Lanes that’s $5 a week and they play two games every Saturday on the weekend. The EYSA has a soccer club that’s $20 for the 4-5 group, and they offer financial aid according to their website. Realistically, I could write an entire post about the activities available to the kids in Erie, but I’m pretty sure the Erie Times already has written one for us.
What amazes me about the programs is the sense of community the kids get from them. Have you ever gone to a kids league activity? If you do, and you watch, you see moms cheering kids they met a week ago, grandpa’s giving advice to the small kid whose mad they missed a goal, and kids picking each other up. You sign your kid up, and all of a sudden you’re sharing pictures with people you would have never met in an adult capacity, comparing behaviors, and watching your kid learn how to be a supportive friend.
It’s not even just other parents- it’s adults in the community. Last night, the husband and I took four kids to an Otters game (my brother was there, but due to ticket issues, we sat with the kids while he sat with the older nephew a few rows back). There we are with four kids under seven, all hopped up on excitement and sugar, sitting between two groups of adults. As a socially awkward person, my first instinct was to get them to sit and be somewhat settled so as not disturb the people without kids. I don’t want a confrontation, I don’t want to be that mom, and I don’t want to ruin their night because I messed up the tickets.
As kids will do, they kept engaging the three person group to our left in conversation. They wanted to show them their prizes and the new mascot whenever they spotted him. They asked them questions because it’s an adult closer than I was and they have no fear if one of us is in arms reach. And as I’m apologizing and trying to wrangle them, something beautiful happened.
These adults talked to them right back like they weren’t bothering them. They explained things I can’t, because sports aren’t my thing. They cheered with the kids, encouraged their manic dancing during songs. Several times throughout the night they told us how good they were, bought them cotton candy and made jokes about how hard they would crash at home. I didn’t know these people, but they reaffirmed my joy in being a part of this community. There are people like this every where in Erie, and it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.
We have some scary stuff in our area; we have tragedies and real monsters to teach our children about in Erie. There are real political and social issues here we need to address and correct. I’m not blind to this, but I do choose to focus on the good, and the good I can do here, instead of bashing Erie and everyone in it.
Erie is not perfect, but there is a very real sense of community here if you’re willing to see it. There’s also ample opportunity to bring kids into the fold, to teach them at a young age how to be part of the community. Kids are our future, and I’m so glad I get to raise mine in a place that fosters those feelings kinship and togetherness. When we create those connections, and teach kids to do the same, we create an environment in which people come together to find solutions instead of focusing on being the one to yell the loudest without results.
I love Erie, I love being able to raise my kid here, and I’m hopeful the community here will be able to work together to continue to improve our city.