Many youngsters spend their summer vacations indoors, playing video games, surfing the Internet or texting.
Willow, 7, and Layla Shearer, 5, on the other hand, have been busy exploring dozens of parks throughout York Country.
The sisters from Dover are among more than 8,000 county participants in the Get Outdoors York GO and Make a Splash program.
The free program, which is in its third year, resembles a scavenger hunt. Participants are required to travel to 26 different parks dispersed around the county to find a "lost buoy."
"Getting families outdoors and physically active this summer is the program's goal," said Kevin Alvarnaz, director of community health improvement with WellSpan Health.
Those who complete the entire
"So many children simply are not getting outdoors anymore. It's a sad reality," said Rachel Shearer, the girls'
mother. "My girls love this program, and our entire family gets involved."
The challenge: Here's how the program is set up.
Each year, the Get Outdoors program, an initiative of the Get Outdoors York Task Force of the Healthy York County Coalition, coordinates with the theme of the York County Libraries summer reading program, Alvarnaz said.
The program began June 14 and runs until Labor Day, Sept. 6. But children still can join the program, he said.
Because this year's summer reading theme is "Make a Splash, Read" the outdoor program created a parallel theme to "get more kids and their families involved," he said.
Thirty buoys were placed in the 26 parks, and larger parks have two buoys posted. Participating children were given hints in the program's booklet on how to locate the buoy, and often had to travel miles to find it, Alvarnaz said.
Each buoy has a particular topic that is water-related, and participants are given informative literature from the county's libraries to gather more information.
"Since both organizations join together, we definitely cross-promote the programs," Alvarnaz said. "It benefits the outdoor program because the reading program has been around for years. But also, we may familiarize people with the reading program in return."
The outdoor program also incorporates education by teaming up with libraries to find literature fitting for each buoy's "topic," he said.
According to Deb Sullivan, spokeswoman for the York County Library System, the summer reading program has more than 10,000 participants this year, with more than 8,000 participating in the outdoor program.
Good exercise: The outdoor participants picked up "water log" booklets at the beginning of June to read clues about where the buoys are located at each park.
And interested children are still able to pick up a water log at any library branch in York County, Alvarnaz said.
Once the buoy is located, children use a crayon to rub the etching attached to the buoy into their water log "to prove they found the lost buoy," he said.
All participants who visit at least 10 parks will receive a participation prize at the grand prize drawing on Oct. 9 at the West Manchester Mall. Those who visit more than 10 parks are eligible to win larger prizes such as a Wii gaming system, kayaking trip gift certificate and several others, he said.
Some of the parks, like Rocky Ridge County Park, require miles of walking on hilly terrain to find the buoy, while others are less challenging, he said.
Willow and Layla, who visit at least one park a week, are often physically exhausted after their hikes, their mother said.
However, on some days they are able to tackle multiple parks in one day because "some trails are easier than others," she said.
"Seriously, some of the park trails are very challenging and quite a workout,'" Shearer said.
"We've participated in the program every year, and we love how it brings our family together," she said. "It's a great way to get outdoors, get some exercise."
--Reach Lauren Whetzel at 505-5433 or email@example.com.