Detective Kerry Wolongevicz of the Brunswick Police Department played the main role in orchestrating a new outdoor activities program for kids. Courtesy of Brunswick Police Department

In part to combat the isolation put on by COVID-19, the Brunswick Police Department is partnering with Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Maine Warden Service to launch an outdoor activities program for local kids.

Brunswick Kids Open Air Club goes to October with one activity per month. It will kick off with a trip to an animal farm next week.

“I’ve noticed that children have become very isolated and stay inside a lot,” said Detective Kerry Wolongevicz, who came up with and organized the program. “COVID is pretty isolating…for example, one girl told me she hadn’t left her apartment in months.”

According to Wolongevicz, the free program drew around 40 applicants and 12 were selected based in part on their ability to commit to the entire program.

“A lot of children, especially now, I’ve noticed have lacked the motivation to, I don’t want to say better themselves, but experience life,” Wolongevicz added.

Come May, the kids, who range in age from 11 to 14, will participate in an afternoon of fishing. Some other activities throughout the program will include hiking, boating, archery and four-wheeling.

“We know as a department that being outside is so good for your mental health,” said Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Public Relations Coordinator Katie Yates.

Yates said that she hopes the program helps the kids develop basic outdoor safety skills, connects them with the Maine outdoors and allow them to have a positive experience with Maine game wardens and law enforcement.

“If people have connections to the outdoors, then they see a lot of value in it in the long run,” Yates said. “They’re more likely to be interested in protecting and conserving green spaces and wildlife.”

Maine Warden Service Sergeant Justin Fowlie hopes all the organizations involved can take on a positive mentor role and show the kids that there are other types of fun besides video games and technology.

“For us, it’s enjoyable because we get to watch the excitement on their faces when they reel in their first fish,” Fowlie said.

Brunswick Police Chief Scott Stewart said the program is part of the department’s larger community policing program known as Community, Honor, Integrity and Leadership Development or CHILD.

“Our goal is to build positive bridges with area youth,” Stewart said. “This Open Air Club is a prime example of one of those programs.”

According to a September 2020 poll reported in the Portland Press Herald, 56% of Americans age 18 – 35 said to have felt isolated in the last month.

The same study reported that only 39% of young adults said to have have excellent or very good mental health, compared to 56% of older adults, suggesting younger people are more susceptible to the social isolation of lockdown.

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