Ten-year-old Alec McKinney stood before hundreds of students in Moline on Thursday and cracked a joke: "Donald Trump," he said as part of an improvisational comedy routine.
Alec's routine with the Comedy Sportz troupe was featured during a huge celebration: Stepping Up for Summer Learning Thursday at the iWireless Center, Moline, which included 800 schoolchildren and 100 adult volunteers.
National Summer Learning Day was Thursday, and organizers said the Moline event was among the largest in the country.
The Comedy Sportz group's routines were funny to the crowd, but Alec got the biggest laughs when he pulled presidential politics into the mix.
"I like to be funny," he said, and his friends agreed. Navarion Counts, 12, and Jakai Hickman-Coleman, 10, described their buddy as very funny, in school and in the neighborhoods. The three boys were among 130 children brought to the event by the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, Rock Island.
Jerry Jones, the center's executive director, said the children work hard and also have fun over the summer.
"They don't know how hard they really work," he said.
In partnership with various programs, such as 4-H and Spring Forward Learning Center, the center's children enjoy activities and learn something at the same time.
The three boys, for example, were aware that a child riding a bicycle could generate enough energy to operate a blender filled with juice, one of 30 kid-friendly activities offered by local organizations.
"We learned that in 4-H," Navarion said.
The connection between having summertime fun and learning is an emphasis at the Spring Forward Learing Center, Dan McNeil, executive director, said.
McNeil was emcee at the Stepping Up event and said the focus is on enrichment — activities mixed with academics and an emphasis on literacy.
Studies show that children from low-income families, especially, may fall back academically as they enjoy a summertime break from schoolwork.
A survey conducted by the National Summer Learning Association indicated two-thirds of teachers say they spend at least a month reteaching children old materials when they return to school in the fall.
Spring Forward, offered to children in Rock Island and Milan schools, takes the children to libraries, museums and other spots around the Quad-Cities. School in the Rock Island-Milan School District starts the first week of August.
Thursday's event was sponsored by Deere & Co., Moline. Nate Clark, of Deere, called it an "amazing logistical success" and noted the convenient use of the main floor in the Moline venue.
The goal was to involve and entertain all the children in Rock Island County's summer programs, he said, noting this is one event held on July 13, National Summer Learning Day.
The Moline event might be one of the largest in the United States, Clark said. He is vice president of the John Deere Foundation and assistant director of corporate citizenship at the firm.
Amanda Pietsch, an engineer at Deere, handled much of the logistics. She also helps coordinate events for the Society of Women Engineers and said the Summer Learning activity was the biggest one she's helped with.
Pietsch, McNeil and several others served on a steering committee to organize the celebration. While Comedy Sportz was the main stage entertainment, the children and adults were also served lunch.
McNeil, as emcee, offered a send-off to the kids from the 2012 book, "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio. The book's main character, Augie Pullman, is 12 years old and has a facial deformity.
"Everyone in the world should have a standing ovation once in their lives," McNeil said to the children as he read from the book: "Give yourselves a standing ovation!"
Hundreds of children quickly complied to rock the Moline auditorium.