E.K. Bush, the managing director of the Norwood Park and Recreation District (NPRD), told The Norwood Post that Jim Whittaker, the acclaimed mountaineer, shared something important with her years ago: “I really don’t think it should be no child left behind; it should be no child left inside.”

The quote made an impression on Bush. In fact, she said it’s become the way she’s raising her son. It’s also the way she approaches her work with NPRD. She aims to get kids moving and outdoors whenever possible. 

“And what an amazing place we live in that we can do that,” she said. 

With NPRD beefing up programming for local youth at this time, kids can join dance, soccer, peewee football and more.

Bush, a lifelong dancer, is thrilled to offer dance classes this fall. After a summer session that saw 23 Norwood youth dancers, she’s planned a full fall course of ballet for ages 3-9. Also, she’ll teach hip-hop dance for ages 10 and older. 

Each dance class meets weekly for the fall semester and costs $130, thanks to a Just For Kids Foundation grant. Classes start the beginning of September and run through Dec. 11, culminating with a recital. 

Two other youth programs are in the planning phase. A few people are interested in coaching soccer. Bush said it’s possible to have soccer clinics for ages 3-13 to work on skills. She needs to know now if families want to see the soccer program take off. 

At the same time, peewee football could also happen, if families of kids in kindergarten through fifth grade want it.

“We need enough people to sign up for both to justify the programs,” she said. 

Anyone wanting to commit to soccer or peewee football should email play@norwoodparkandrec.org.

“If people are interested, let’s put it together,” she said. “But we need enough to play.”

NPRD is a longtime recipient of the Just For Kids Foundation grants. Bush, who appreciates that support, wants to participate in the annual fundraiser, the bike race. 

While the race is virtual this year, like last year due to COVID, Bush said families can do it through NPRD. She said Park & Rec can support families in biking the 50 miles together, keeping track of their progress and the fundraising should they desire to. Fundraising is encouraged, but not required. 

“We want to support this fundraiser and get kids outside, maybe with parents riding bikes,” she said. 

Another program Bush would like to get off the ground is also in the planning stages. She wants to begin a “Young Explorers” group, through which parents and caregivers bring kids 3 to 5 years old to meet up with other families for hiking and biking adventures. Bush said families can meet her at certain spots to do activities like ride bikes at Burn Canyon in a group setting. Anyone interested in becoming a part of the Young Explorers program should also reach out to Bush. 

Bush said it’s crucial to know what the community wants to see happen. 

“I want to offer what they’re most interested in,” she said. 

She is trying now to schedule as much programming as possible, while also attracting grantors to help pay for activities. She wants to offer as much financial aid as possible, so as many people who want to participate can. 

Anyone who’d like to offer support with funding, volunteer work, coaching, or other types of sponsorship should contact Bush directly.