Last year summer camp at Kent County YMCA boomed with more campers than anticipated.
This year as the camp enters the second week of its 10-week run; Y executive director Eileen Barber expects an even larger turnout. Located on the 117-acre Y campus on Centerville Road, Barber said 400 to 500 campers use the facility daily beginning as early as 6:30 a.m. with a before camp program and ending as late as 12 hours later with the after camp program.
Barber said the increase in campers is accompanied with an increase in Y membership and at a time when many other camps are seeing declines.
“It has a lot to do with the impact of our staff,” Barber said. “People are getting it. There’s tremendous value for all that we’re offering here.”
The camp costs $142 a week, but as Barber stresses, finances should not be a reason why parents should deny their children the experience of Camp Ok-Wa-Nessett. She said the Y offers camp scholarships.
“Children need to be active and engaged,” she said. Also, she said the Y credo of “youth development, healthy living and social responsibility” resonates with the community.
As an example of social responsibility, Barber cites the gardening efforts of “Nature” George Marley and how he and campers recently harvested vegetables and staged a farmers market for Y members with the money going into camp scholarships.
For member experience director Patricia Driscoll, the camp’s success is attributable to the Y’s responsiveness to parental needs. She said kids can attend a half-day camp and, with early morning and evening programming, the camp is flexible.
The Y has also undertaken programs that reach into the community such as the recent “splash” week for non-swimmers. The program was attended by about 50. On July 19 and 23 the Y will run programs for adults on responsibility and safety around the water.
With the completion of a major renovation and expansion plan, Barber said many people are discovering and rediscovering the Y. The facilities are surely an attraction.
But as Barber observes, the camp is essentially the same. The splash park has been a part of the facility for some time and the pond with its floats and swimming areas designed for different age groups is a Y standby.
From her perspective, the attraction is the people, the values promoted by the Y and the programs, as much as the venue. And without a doubt, it is also the time of year…that time when kids learn how to paddle a canoe, do crafts, learn new games, make new friends, take to the ball field and, perhaps best of all, to be cool from a swim and lie on a sandy towel to watch summer clouds.