WATSON -- As more than 150 parents and children mingled inside of C.B. Wheat Gymnasium, 9-year-old Addison King located Live Oak High Eaglette Emily Shewmake amid the chaos and ran into her arms.
The two shared a long, tight hug as King refused to let go, knowing it would signal the end of the her fun-filled week with Shewmake.
“We had a great time this week, didn’t we?” Shewmake asked King, who enthusiastically grinned and nodded.
They weren’t the only ones who did.
The Live Oak High School Eaglettes Dance Team, under the direction of team sponsor Alice Didier, hosted a week-long dance camp for children in Pre-K through eighth grade from July 10-14 at Live Oak High School.
Nearly 70 children registered for the five-day camp, which Didier said was the first of its kind for the dance team.
The Eaglettes would put on one-day clinics for kids in the community in years past, usually on a Friday night from 6-9 p.m — about 37 hours less than last week.
Nearly all 20 members of the Eaglettes Dance Team worked the camp each day with team sponsors Didier, D’Ann Wells and coach Jerica Robinson, who came up with the idea as a way to raise money for the National Dance Team Championships in Orlando Feb. 2-4, 2018.
For five days from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., the empty cafeteria at Live Oak turned into an all-day summer camp, where kids played games and learned dances choreographed by the Eaglette dancers themselves.
The Eaglettes ran the camp for the most part, something the sponsors made clear when they told them of their idea.
It was a challenging task for the Eaglettes, who also came up with the crafts and various activities, but spending time with wide-eyed kids who adored them made all the work feel worth it.
Kamryn Chambers, current captain of the Eaglettes, recalled asking her group how many of them wanted to be on the dance team when they grew up, saying “all of them raised their hands.”
“It’s neat seeing kids look up to you,” Chambers said.
The children were splits into four age groups: Pre-K through first grade; second and third grade, fourth and fifth grade, and then sixth through eighth grade.
There was a theme for each day of the week — ranging from “Zoo Day” on Monday to “Space Day” on Wednesday to “Olympics Day” on Friday — and the Eaglettes generated the activities from the day’s theme.
Though it technically was a dancing camp, not all the activities centered around dancing — something the team sponsors wanted known when they advertised the camp.
“A lot of it was good old-fashioned just bring them outside and let them play,” Didier said.
On Thursday, July 13, two large inflatable water slides were set up outside Live Oak High’s cafeteria, where camp goers also played a variety of water games based on the day’s “Under the Sea” theme.
Later that afternoon, the children put the finishing touches on their dance routines they’d perform in front of an audience the next day.
At 3:30 p.m. Friday, families and friends gathered inside the school’s gymnasium to watch the four groups perform two routines apiece, starting with the Pre-K and first grade group and ending with the sixth through eighth grade group.
Parents and coaches cheered on the young dancers while their Eaglette group leaders performed the dances with them or acted out the choreography on the sidelines.
The camp concluded following the end of the eight performances, but just the crowd exited the gym, Chambers had a message from her and her fellow Eaglettes.
“We just want to say thank you so much for letting us spend this with your children,” she said. “We had as much fun with them as they did with us.”