By Sue Botos
It’s a dilemma faced by most working parents sooner or later. What happens when the kids are too old for a babysitter, but too young to be left alone every day during the summer? Sometimes video games or a neighbor can fill the void, but one Rocky River mom decided that a summer day camp that teaches ’tweens to learn while they earn was a cure for summertime boredom.
“I didn’t want my child sitting around all summer playing video games,” stated Karry Trotter, who created Custom Fit Kids. This is the first year for the 12-week program, which began on June 10 and goes through the week of Aug. 19 and is geared for children between the ages of 8 and 13. Trotter runs it out of her Hilliard Boulevard home, and it’s not unusual to see a few of her “campers” stationed in front, beneath a rainbow-striped umbrella, manning the lemonade/vegetable/baked goods stand, which is their summer business.
“We grew the vegetables,” said Markus Rivera, 14, pointing out the array of peppers and green beans. He added that the group also bakes the zucchini bread and cupcakes themselves. He attends the camp with his younger brother Travis.
“This teaches us how to run a business,” added Shelton Trotter, 12, Karry’s son.
Karry Trotter explained that the five boys in this initial group run all aspects of their business. “These aren’t just random prices, they researched costs online,” Trotter said. “When they make the baked goods, they figure out how much they cost to make and price them accordingly.” She noted that the most consistent price seemed to end up at 75 cents.
“We involved the children in the decision-making process to help them develop critical thinking skills. They also get to keep the proceeds from what they sell,” Trotter said. Sheldon added that sometimes the profits are used for fun activities like trips to the pool, but he and his fellow entrepreneurs are saving some. “I’m going to get a new computer,” Markus stated.
The boys rotate 30-minute shifts, tending shop between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., weather permitting. This is not mandatory, but serves as a life lesson. “I give them the option, but if they don’t work, they don’t make any money,” Trotter said.
Trotter explained that the program combines her two passions – organic foods and finance. With an undergraduate degree in health care administration, Trotter worked in finance and mortgage banking for 25 years, the last four in health care management. She then went back to college, earning a master’s degree in public health/epidemiology.
According to the Custom Fit Kids website, www.customfitkids.us, each week covers different topics ranging from organic gardening, to finance, to business basics. The boys will also create a recipe book the week of Aug. 5.
The group takes educational field trips to destinations like the Federal Reserve bank, but there is also time for fun. Between shifts at the lemonade stand, tending to the garden, lessons and baking, the boys may slip in a few Xbox games.
“It’s still in the organic stages,” Trotter said of the program. She hopes to raise the funds for a more permanent location and has her eye on a building at the corner of Detroit Road and Allen Court. “My husband and I are figuring out how much it will cost to renovate it,” she stated.
A move would come as bad news to some of the stand’s regular customers, such as a man who stops by once a week for a glass of lemonade. On this particularly hot day, Sheila Gallagher paused for some refreshment during her walk from Westgate to her home at Cliff Towers. “We only use one cup of sugar for a gallon of our lemonade,” noted Trotter. This gives the beverage a bit of a tang and a more refreshing quality than sweeter concoctions.
While not specifically for special needs children, Trotter said one of her campers has autism and has been home-schooled. She said that thanks to his participation in Custom Fit Kids, he will head back to classes in the Rocky River public schools in August.
“Above all, we promote positive attitude, outlook and acceptance,” Trotter stated.
For more information about Custom Fit Kids, visit www.customfitkids.us or the blog at childgrowthandlearning.com. Karry Trotter can be reached at 440-539-6840.