Behind the scenes at Bryant Square Park

Recreation Leader Julie Sandin keeps teens, toddlers and adult volunteers busy

Coordinating hoards of boisterous kids all day – from toddlers to teens – might not sound like fun to everyone, but to Bryant Square Park Recreation Leader Julie Sandin, it’s not crazy-making, it’s great. “I do love my job,” she said.

Bryant Square Park, 3101 Bryant Ave. S., like many recreation centers in Southwest, offers much more than meets the eye. Don’t be fooled by the medium-size park building. Beyond the playground and wading pool, the park offers countless activities – baseball, hockey and soccer, to name just a few – and events year-round for kids and adults, as well as volunteer opportunities.

At the always-busy CARAG park, Sandin does everything from scouting for baseball coaches to planning events and getting – and keeping – kids of all ages involved in activities. “Keeping kids involved and engaged in something positive” is a challenge, she said, but success in that mission is what Sandin strives for. “That makes me happy,” she said.

From a small town to an inner-city park

Sandin’s from a small town called New London-Spicer, Minn., and she said ever since she can remember, she’s wanted to work with inner-city kids. She said she likes the diversity of kids in the city. “Bryant Square is great – it has a little bit of everything,” she said.

Sandin, who has a four-year degree in human services from the University of Minnesota – Morris, said she came to the park system in 1993 and worked part-time until 1995. She started working in parks on the North side of Minneapolis, in programs like Youthline, organizing activities for kids ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old.

Sandin said she enjoys working with kids of all ages, but particularly thrives on working with teenagers. “They’re self-sufficient,” she said, whereas smaller children need help with nearly everything. In 1999, she said she applied for a promotion and moved to Southwest’s Bryant Square Park, where she deals with a wide-range of kids, from toddlers to young adults.

A big part of her job at the CARAG park is working with the Bryant Area Recreation Council (BARC), a volunteer group that organizes sports activities at the center. They organize teams and activities, recruit coaches and order uniforms – whatever needs to be done. It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work of which passersby might not ever be aware.

Park life

At Bryant Square, park life includes nearly every sport or activity imaginable.

There’s a wrestling program in the winter, baseball in the spring and summer, soccer in the fall, and hockey in the winter. In addition, there’s a tae kwon do group, as well as a Capoeira dance group. Childcare is also provided year-round.

In addition to sports and dance, there are also numerous not-so-athletic activities at the park, like homework help, art projects, an indoor playgroup for smaller children and movie nights. Parents can register for these activities online.

During the holiday season, there are also many festive activities planned for the park. Upcoming events include:

Holiday Crafts, Bryant Square Park, Dec. 20, 3:30-4:30 p.m., ages 6-12, $2 fee.

Holiday Cooking Feast, Bryant Square Park, Dec. 21, 4-7 p.m., ages 10-14.

Cookies for the Holidays, Bryant Square Park, Dec. 22, 4-4:30 p.m., ages 8-12, $5 fee.

Various games planned at the park Dec. 27-Jan. 3, 2-5 p.m., ages 8-12, free.

Winter Fun Day, holiday baking, ice skating and a Frosty the Snowman movie screening, Dec. 28, 1:30-4:30 p.m., ages 6-10, free.

Family Skate Night, Bryant Square Park, Dec. 30 and Jan. 6, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

The center is open Monday-Friday, 1-9:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; closed Sundays. For more information about Bryant Square Park or to register for an activity or class, call 370-4907 or visit www.minneapolisparks.org and use the drop-down menu to find Bryant Square Recreation Center.