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ANAHEIM : City Sponsors Free Activities for Teens

Young people from troubled communities in Anaheim will have more to do this summer than hang out and be bored, thanks to an array of activities available through the city and the YMCA--and for free.

Teen-agers can swim in the organization’s pool and use the gymnasium for basketball and dodge-ball games. They can use weight training equipment and racquetball courts and join a boxing program. These are just a few of the activities offered at the YMCA through Anaheim’s Save-A-Youth (SAY) Program.

In addition, about 75 group members will spend a week in mid-July at the YMCA’s summer camp in the mountains, where they can hike, swim, learn about nature and create arts and crafts.

Young people from four troubled neighborhoods are targeted as recruits for SAY in an effort to offer them an alternative to joining gangs or using drugs, activities often associated with some of the poorer, crime-ridden areas.

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Still, the teens aren’t treated as underprivileged, say YMCA workers, who add that the youths get the same treatment as the facility’s regulars.

“We’re trying to get away from that. We’re trying not to label the kids ‘youth at risk,’ ” said Chris Ofelt, physical activities director at the YMCA. When SAY teens come to the YMCA, he changes the youth group’s title to the City of Anaheim Youth Program.

Another special program is designed for kids who want to be out later in the evenings, but don’t want to be on the streets. The “Back Door at the Y” program allows youths to drop in between 6:00 and 9:30 p.m. to socialize, play games or just relax, he said.

Debbie Moore, who coordinates SAY for the city, estimates that about 40 teens participate. Another 200 elementary school pupils are involved in SAY programs at school sites.

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