Celebrating 35 Years of C.A.R.E.

April 15, 2024

Thirty-five years ago, when Jeni Huhta’s son was going to school in Palatine, he needed a place to go for childcare after school. “I thought to myself, I can’t be the only working mom who needs this,” Huhta said. In 1988 C.A.R.E. (Children’s Activity, Recreation and Enrichment) was established through a partnership with the school district and local park districts. “The school had the space and the parents needed affordable childcare,” Huhta explained. Her son was one of the first to enroll.

C.A.R.E. staff Barbara Weibe helps a student with a pillow project.

Presently, C.A.R. E. is a before and after school program provided by the Palatine Park District to families with children attending a Community Consolidated School District 15 elementary school, located in Palatine. C.A.R.E. provides safe, quality childcare where children can focus on their interests while engaging in a variety of structured and non-structured activities including working on homework, art and crafts, hands-on projects, board and card games, and active play outside and in the gym.

Cathi Fabjance, C.A.R.E. Program Manager since 2014 said “My absolute favorite part of this job is getting to interact with the children when I go to the sites and see them enjoying themselves. I love seeing all of the creative and fun things the staff plan for them,” she added. “Overhearing children ask their parents to come back and get them later so they can stay and keep having fun at C.A.R.E. is music to all of our ears.”

Each of the participating schools uses a designated classroom as their base where parents drop off in the morning and pick up in the evening.  Starting with a handful of schools, C.A.R.E. is now available in 10 schools including Gray M. Sanborn, Marion Jordan, Hunting Ridge, Pleasant Hill, Jane Addams, Winston Campus Elementary, Lincoln, Lake Louise, Stuart R. Paddock, and Virginia Lake as well as serving kindergarten students at Palatine Park District’s Community Center. C.A.R.E. runs from 7:00am until the start of school, and from the end of school until 6:00pm. Parents have an option of before school, after school or both.

 “When I retired, I decided to apply to work part-time for C.A.R.E.,” Huhta said. I don’t get to see my grandkids that often and I really enjoy being around the kids, staying active and creative, and having fun,” she said.  “Now I know what’s hip,” she laughed.

According to Heidi Linehan, C.A.R.E. Coordinator, “We have a fantastic staff – from high school students to retirees. The staff is what makes this program work,” she added. From crayon necklaces to outdoor sledding, C.A.R.E. staff’s objective is to create a diverse calendar of enjoyable activities.

“All the locations become like a second family,” Linehan said.  “Kids return year after year. Younger siblings get excited about coming the next year – they want to come and do all the activities like their siblings.”

Heidi Linehan, C.A.R.E. Coordinator assists participants with a puzzle.

Not only do the kids come back but the staff do as well. “The varying ages of staff are a plus that adds to the success of the program,” Linehan said. “The older kids have a lot of questions for the high school staff about what it’s like to be in high school, and they can play sports with the kids,” she said. “Our older staff bring their years of experience, ideas, and nurturing ways,” she added.

“The staff really care so much for those children, and you can see it when you are at the site,” Fabjance said. “For parents who haven’t given C.A.R.E. a try yet, it is such a great opportunity to build positive memories. I have been fortunate to see students who were in our program come work for us,” she added.  “They tell me about the staff who they remember and loved, and they get to give that same joy back to the students they work with now in the C.A.R.E program. It really warms your heart.”

“I’m most proud that families come back year after year,” Linehan said. “I’m proud to be a part of it and our employees make it what it is. Again, we wouldn’t have a program without them,” she stressed.

Returning families and incoming siblings have priority to register for C.A.R.E. followed by open enrollment beginning Monday, May 6. Enroll online at palatineparks.org or in person at Community Center, Birchwood Recreation Center, or Falcon Park Recreation Center.

“I feel I have come full circle,” Huhta said. “At C.A.R.E. kids learn such a variety of activities from sewing to sports, and they have people to play with,” she said. “They are happy to be here and so are we.”

Related News

Introducing Girls Flag Football
Jul 16, 2024

Girls may want to have fun, but they also want to play flag football! Now…

July is Park and Recreation Month
Jul 16, 2024

July brings thoughts of fabulous fireworks, sun-drenched swimming pools, and summer camps. But did you…

Storytime in the Park – Bringing Literacy Outdoors
May 13, 2024

Librarians from the Palatine Library District are taking their act on the road. This is…

2024 Sounds of Summer Entertainment Series
May 13, 2024

Free Entertainment Series Spans Musical Genres If you close your eyes in Palatine on a…

PAFA Spirit Cheerleading Jumps Into New Season
Apr 15, 2024

Sis, Sis, Sis! Boom, Boom, Boom! Princeton, Princeton, Princeton! According to USA Cheer, the first…

Hound Egg Hunt Fun for Pups
Mar 18, 2024

Do you know there is a princess who lives in Palatine? She is very calm…