David Stone
Roosevelt Island Difference Makers: Island Kids
CCO Public Domain / Pixabay

If a community as young as ours is mature enough to have institutions, Island Kids is one. After more than thirty years gracefully, thoughtfully filling gaps for Roosevelt Island families, this soft-spoken nonprofit is one whose benefits we've learned to take for granted.

A community's children are everyone's business, their well-being worth investing in, both truths that show off Island Kids as elegantly generous, smoothly doing privately what many parents dealing with career schedules and other demands find difficult to impossible. Government run initiatives rarely do as well.

For more than three decades, Island Kids has supported new parents with sharing classes, made sure children had worthwhile, fun activities after school let out and set up summer camps where kids play and learn while moms and dads are at work.

Such things stitch together a neighborhood with value.

A mark of their success shared with us on their website: "Island Kids stands firm in its mission to serve the entire Roosevelt Island Community and therefore offers scholarships to those who might otherwise not be able to participate in our programs."

Scholarships have totaled as much as $20,000 in recent years.

Extending the spirit of generosity. Island Kids offers Baby Group, it's longest running class, for free.

"Becoming a parent is an amazing experience," observes their website, "but it isn’t as easy as it looks! We welcome new Moms and Moms-to-be to join us each week to share stories, ask questions, give tips, and discuss a wide array of parenting topics."

Originally launched by volunteers determined to provide programing for their own children, Island Kids picked up momentum and, in 1993, became incorporated as a not for profit.

For its core activity, Island Kids partners with PS/IS 217 to create structured, after school activities. These run through the school year from 2:45 t0 6:30 p.m. Snacks are provided to make homework and other enrichment activities easier, but the fun of being a kid is not neglected. Time is set aside for going outdoors and for independent play.

July and August bring Summer Camp for four- to ten-year-olds. The camp is held locally with drop off and pick up times as convenient as possible for busy parents. If you need financial aid, scholarship information and a link to apply is available right on the website.

More information, including times, dates and free activities, can be found on the Island Kids website.

Island Kids has been in growth mode, a natural progression, throughout its lifespan, innovating to respond to emerging needs and expanding as a resource. The future looks dynamic as they consider expanding to help children as they grow closer to adulthood. 

That's what a beneficial community institution does - it grows with its neighborhood. Like other responsive Roosevelt Island organizations - the Parents' Network, Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance, RIVAA - Island Kids is essentially a creation of the community it serves. As we have changed, so have they.