Freedom Fridays Getaways

Holly Springs Parks and Recreation provides adventure opportunities for seniors

Freedom Fridays, a program of Holly Springs Parks and Recreation, provide "older, wiser, and livelier" residents unique day and overnight travel and social opportunities. Transportation is almost always provided, giving participants a stress-free way to experience regional destinations.

Early one morning in December, a group of soon-to-be friends gathers at the W.E. Hunt Recreation Center in Holly Springs.

These Holly Springs residents greet each other with handshakes and hugs, and load into a well-appointed 14-passenger van for a fun day trip.

The group of about 20 participants embarks on a Freedom Fridays excursion, a program of the Town of Holly Springs Parks and Recreation Department, offered two to three times per month, designed for “older, wiser, and livelier” seniors.

Justin Burcham, recreation program specialist at the Hunt Center, plans and leads Freedom Fridays, a task he has enjoyed for nearly five years.

“When you think of senior parks and recreation offerings, it’s generally card games or an exercise class. So we wanted to create something that could be a combination of educational and socially rewarding. A lot of times as you get a little bit older, you feel limited, you stop driving, you stop being mobile, and that can cause you to lose friendships and connections with people. So it’s very valuable to us to be able to offer something where we liberate the registrant; we take away their worries about travel,” says Burcham.

Local resident Dee Oberle arrives with smiles and hugs for a December Freedom Fridays trip, leaving the Hunt Recreation Center in Holly Springs.

Burcham works with Roger Herding — enthusiastic Freedom Fridays participant turned part-time program assistant — to plan the excursions more than six months in advance.

Varied destinations, both near and far, always draw a crowd. Burcham says the trips operate at 90% capacity or more. Previous Freedom Fridays trips have included overnight stays in Asheville and Williamsburg, Virginia, a day trip to Mebane for outlet shopping, and a jaunt to a nearby bowling alley.

“Within the town of Holly Springs, we have no bowling alley, so we try to pick small things that we don’t have locally that will still be of interest,” says Burcham.

“We try to mix it up between science, American history, sports and entertainment, and then also something that can involve exercise,” Burcham says.

Already, Burcham has planned future overnight trips to High Point — tour a furniture factory, go antique shopping, taste the local cuisine — and Greenville, SC — tour the BMW plant and car museum — as well as day trips to a theater show at DPAC, the Greensboro Civil Rights Museum, and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, among many others.

Program assistant Roger Herding welcomes Freedom Fridays registrants to their December outing.

“A lot of people relocate from out of town and don’t have a lot of friends in this area. This becomes a social scene for them. We see new people every time we have a trip. … This gives (registrants) a chance to learn about their town and their state,” Burcham says.

Trips frequently require significant walking, but the parameters are always clearly marked in the town’s quarterly Hurrahs program guide, where the schedule and details of the upcoming Freedom Fridays excursions are explained.

Interested participants register through the Town of Holly Springs online system, which requires first-time users to set up an account and password. Burcham says this can be accomplished online or by calling the Hunt Center for assistance.

“It feels good to have a trip sell out, to know that this is a popular program and you’re serving a real need in the community.

Details can be found in the Hurrahs program guide.

“It’s great when you plan out two to three days of travel plans to watch them unfold and people have a good time — it’s very rewarding. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s fun to do all this stuff myself,” Burcham says.

The town is committed to creating an engaged, healthy, active community at all ages, seniors included, says Kristen Denton, assistant director of parks and recreation, highlighting several other offerings available to active seniors, including social meetups, fitness classes at the Hunt Center, Tai Chi, pickleball, and senior archery.

“We are also very excited about the future development of our newest park in Holly Springs, Cass Holt Road Park. The approved master plan for the park includes a new large recreation center that will be designed for multigenerational usage and space that will accommodate additional senior programming,” Denton says.

Editor’s note: Stay up to date with all Parks and Recreation program info through the town’s website and the Hurrahs program guide, available digitally and in print. Fuquay-Varina Parks and Recreation offers a similar program for seniors about once a month.

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