Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill Township residents get creative, save money

Katie and Emma Heins kept themselves busy last week by running a bake sale. The girls fought off summer boredom by planning the small business and donated the more than $100 in profit to the Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte.
Katie and Emma Heins kept themselves busy last week by running a bake sale. The girls fought off summer boredom by planning the small business and donated the more than $100 in profit to the Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte.

In the summertime, shouts of "I'm Bored!" can be heard from children everywhere. As parents listen to their children's pleas, they are also looking in their wallets, painfully aware that gas prices and a higher cost of living are taking their toll on entertainment budgets.

Instead of cost prohibitive vacations and frequent trips to theme parks, parents are staying close to home and trying to find ways to entertain their children without emptying their pockets. With a little encouragement and help from their parents, kids on Spring Branch Road in Fort Mill staged a two-night neighborhood run of "Karate Kid," a play based on the film. The play was written and directed by Avery Williams, a rising fifth grader at Fort Mill Elementary. She also starred in the production and enlisted neighborhood children from ages 8 to 13 to participate.

"I just like being in plays because I love just acting and all that," Avery said. "But I decided to write my own because I wanted to do something for our neighborhood kids. It was really fun."

On play night, families from around the neighborhood settled into lawn chairs near the Williams' patio for the premier. Cast members performed double duties by helping with all aspects of production, including taking tickets and handing out programs.

"Karate Kid" told the story of a nerdy kid who is being bullied at school by the "cool" kids. He takes karate lessons and learns to defend himself, achieving his goals and earning his peers' respect.

In an e-mail to the Fort Mill Times, neighbor Joyce DeWitt said, "There was a lot of humor and some great acting by all of the cast members."

The kids kept themselves busy for three weeks preparing for the play and for only $2, audience members had a full evening of entertainment. At the end of the two-night showing, the children had received $124 in ticket sales that they donated to the family of a sick child at their church.

Other families are using local recreation centers for inexpensive entertainment. Keshia Robbins said her family of five joined the Leroy Springs Recreation Complex for the summer and uses the pool almost daily. It's a small monthly fee, she said, and it doesn't strain their finances.

Susan Hollis, director of the Fort Mill YMCA, said nearly 100 more people are coming through the doors daily compared to last summer. Usually, she said, the crowd at the pool and the gym thin out in late July.

"It just hasn't this summer," Hollis said. "I'm really excited to see people using their memberships. A lot of people are making a lot out of their membership dollars."

The neighborhood pool at Legacy Park in Indian Land has been a lifesaver for Tonya Ainsworth. Pool fees are included in residents' homeowners association dues, so Ainsworth and her son, Gavin have made trips to the pool part of their daily routine.

Instead of going to expensive sporting events or play centers, Gavin's dad Jason Ainsworth plays with him in the backyard with sports equipment they keep on hand. Jason also takes Gavin to the driving range at Sun City Carolina Lakes. It's close to home, which saves them on gas costs, and it's only $9 for a medium bucket of balls.

"Sports, I think for boys, is kind of easy. They can go out and throw a ball around for awhile and it's free." Ainsworth said.

• Joyce DeWitt contributed to this story.

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