FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Since Marcial Reyes, 11, began participating in the Experience, Develop, Grow and Excel program, he said one of his favorite activities has been socializing with friends.

On June 17, Reyes chatted with peers as he took a leisurely canoe ride or Smith Lake. He was one of 14 children participating in Adventure EDGE!, which encourages children to embrace outdoor life.

"(I get to) meet with other people and we mostly have a lot of fun with all the stuff we do," Reyes said.

EDGE! provides cutting-edge art, fitness, life skills and adventure activities in partnership with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Child, Youth and School Services. It is designed for children and youth in grades 1 to 12.

Participating children must have a valid CYSS card to register, said Deanna Lampley, FMWR partnership specialist. Programs for those in grades 5 to 12 are free; the cost for grades 1 to 4 depends on the program.

In the past, youth have enjoyed activities such as bowling, fishing, ice skating and skeet and trap shooting.

How does Paris Lawas describe canoeing on Smith Lake'

"It's wet, really wet," she said, drenched from head-to-toe after splashing water with canoe mates.

There's a "rush" to canoeing, Lawas said, almost at a loss for words.

According to Amanda Bartlett, operations manager at Smith Lake and facilitator of the canoeing excursion, one focus of Adventure EDGE! is to encourage children to stay safe. They are urged to wear life jackets and be careful when stepping in and out of a canoe, she said.

Through EDGE!, canoeing is a good introduction for children who have not previously been exposed to the activity, Bartlett added. It also allows children to enjoy being on the water and in the sun.

Curtis Richardson has ice skated and canoed with buddies he made in the EDGE! program. If he could give his parents one message, Richardson said he would thank them for signing him up.
His mother, Lisa, seems thrilled with Curtis' bliss.

"It makes me happy that he's happy and doing something he really likes this summer," said Lisa, who works as an EDGE! program assistant.