Got Your Toothbrush? UiC Guide to CampsBy: Jacqueline Thompson Graves
Photo courtesy of Lake Lanier Islands Resort
If all I knew about summer camp was what I saw in the movies, I wouldn't let my kid go. Fortunately, movies are just movies and camp is camp. I still remember quaking with fear when I was six, packing my little suitcase to go away for a whole week to a scary place called Boys and Girls Camp in Anadarko, Oklahoma. The cafeteria food was gross. The Snack Shack kept me alive. The bunk bed mattresses were thin as Kleenex. The Olympics were amazing. The mosquitoes were big as helicopters. I learned about short-sheeting a bed, Saran-wrapping a toilet seat and scouted out my first snipe. Camp was terrible and wonderful all at the same time, and I couldn't wait for next August when I would return and leave some other sucker holding the snipe bag.
You may think six years sounds a little young to leave home for a week, but Riverview Camp director Susan Hooks believes young children do well at camp. "It's best if they start young so they have plenty of years to enjoy camp. We have a buddy system here which pairs a young camper with an older girl to help her." April Cox, children's director at First Christian Church in Cumming advises, "I would consider a child's age, social skills and willingness to be away from home," when deciding whether to choose a day camp or overnight camp. "If a child has never spent the night at a friend's house, you may not want to start with an overnight summer camp," Cox adds.
Parents who did not go to camp as children may wonder what all the fuss is about. Camp reminds me of my favorite book, The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. In the book the orphaned Alden children fend for themselves. The book, written in 1924, continues to be a favorite of children in every generation because the characters function (for awhile) without any adults in their life.
"Children love being on their own and away from their parents," states Hooks. "They gain a feeling of independence and confidence at camp." Leanne Mann, Director of Summer Programs at Darlington School, echoes a similar sentiment. "Overnight camps help a child start spreading their wings and learn independence, self-reliance and leadership. It can be a life-defining experience."
Of course, safety of campers is the number one concern of every camp, especially in today's world. "I think summer camp may be the only place left for children to go away to a safe, outdoor environment," states Riverview director Hooks. "Parents should ask themselves, 'Am I comfortable leaving my child here 24 hours per day?'" Woody Morrison, owner and director of Lookout Mountain Camp gives his perspective. "The overriding concern of a parent in choosing a camp for their child should not be the beauty of the camp or anything else except this: How does the camp select its staff? Who is in the cabin with the boys? What do they do to filter that? I cannot stress that enough."
When choosing a camp, parents should look at more than just prices. Look for camps that have been accredited by a trusted association such as the American Camp Association (ACA). Leanne Mann advises, "Do your research. Know your child. Look for a camp that will challenge your child and fulfill him or her. Look for coaches and teachers who are passionate about children and about what they teach." April Cox adds, "I would look for a camp that lines up with my child's spiritual and emotional needs, and also with our goals at that time in their life. For example, if my child was intent on making the basketball team, we would probably focus on basketball camps."
Although every camp provides a packing list, they all agreed a toothbrush is probably the most forgotten item. Other things campers left behind include soap, shampoo, laundry detergent and pool towels. "Everything a camper might need, she can buy in our camp store," says Leanne Mann, "except a fantastic attitude. We can't sell that."
Camps today run the gamut from every sport imaginable to water activities such as kayaking to riding horses, to traditional hiking and outdoor living skills to thoroughly modern day camp adventures like cupcake making, knitting and science experiments. "We have done camp to this extent for about seven years," says Kristy Thompson, Children's Director at Cumming First United Methodist Church. "Each year we tweak it and add new things so children who return get something new. This is the first year we've had football camp and also we added instruments to the music camp."
Everyone I talked to mentioned friendships as one of the best parts of camp. "I started going to camp in North Carolina (from Florida) when I was eight years old," related Mann. "I still have friends I first met at that camp."
I'll never forget the last day of camp in 1974 when the Camp Director called me into his office. I figured he knew about the previous night's snipe hunt and had already called my mother. Instead he handed me a five dollar bill. "Remember turning this in on the first day of camp?" he asked. "Well, no one claimed it. Guess it's yours." I learned a sweet lesson about honesty that day. And I spent the whole wad at the Snack Shack.
Be sure to say you scouted out your camp experience in Up in Cumming® magazine!
Some camps are girls only or boys only, others are co-ed. Some focus on a particular sport or skill while others concentrate on the camp experience itself. Day camps provide a variety of workshops and outings. We spotlight six camps here. Visit our Online Exclusive for over 50 area camps and a link to hundreds of specialty camps.
Cumming First United Methodist Church offers one day camp after another all summer long. Kelin Johnson is teaching the football camp and Brad Bowling does the basketball camp. Art students get some first class instruction as well from Forsyth Central High School's Kevin Whitley, a teacher of the year and well known for his program at FCHS. Drama camp, science camp, cooking, cupcakes, "Wiggles & Giggles" and more make me wish I were a kid again.
Cumming First United Methodist Church
770 Canton Highway, Cumming GA 30040
(770) 887-2900 | www.cfumcga.com
Kristy Thompson, Children's Director
Another organization offering fun day time camps in the area is the Reaping Nature Educational Outreach Foundation. Their weeklong "eco"camps are offered two weeks in June and two weeks in July. Campers enjoy nature walks, arts and crafts, special presentations and more. The foundation seeks sponsors of grants to enable underprivileged children to attend camp.
Cedar Hill Enrichment Center
5735 Dawsonville Hwy, Gainesville, GA 30506
(770) 887-0051 | www.reapingnature.org/ecocamp_flier.pdf
Denise Carlton or Kat Stratton
Horse lovers need to meet Beth Pedaggi. She runs the summer equestrian camp at Lake Lanier Islands. "I teach horse from the hoof up," grins Pedaggi. Kids in her program actually learn about horses. Trail rides, scavenger hunts, games on horseback, even painting horses with washable body paints are all part of the fun. With only 12 riders per session and 4 instructors, campers receive plenty of individual attention. Camp fees include admittance to the water park in the afternoon. Reserve by March 31st and receive a $50 discount!
Lake Lanier Islands
7000 Holiday Road, Lake Lanier Islands, GA 30518
1-800-840-LAKE | www.lakelanierislands.com
Riverview Camp for Girls calls itself a Christian, but not a church, camp. "We empower young girls to make good decisions," states director Susan Hooks. About 70-80% of the counselors grew up attending the camp. "Our staff is a gift," says Hooks, reverently. Hooks recently ran into one her long time campers who confided, "One of the best things I did to prepare for college was going to your camp." Riverview offers outdoor activities from sports to a ropes course to swimming and riding.
Riverview Camp for Girls
PO Box 299, Mentone, AL 35984
(800) 882-0722 | www.riverviewcamp.com
I talked to Woody Morrison about Lookout Mountain Camp (for boys). Morrison's great grandfather started the camp in 1928. "I have another job during the year," he related, "but this camp is my passion." When I asked him what made his camp so fun he had an interesting perspective. "The kids talk about the zip line, the horses and so forth. Ask an alumnus the same question and they talk about the people they remember from camp. Kids don't recognize it at the time. Camp happens to them without them realizing it."
Lookout Mountain Camp (for boys)
277 County Road 632, Mentone, AL 35984
Winter phone: (504) 861-1534 | www.lookoutmountaincamp.com
If Sushi Saturdays and Breakfast at Tiffany's sound delicious, you would love the culinary summer program at Darlington (some taught by a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef). Maybe flight simulation or Latin dance appeals to your child. How about robotics and engineering, one of the many sports camps, or SAT prep? Darlington offers a slew of day camps as well as an on-campus experience.
1014 Cave Spring Road, Rome, GA 30161
(800)-36-TIGER | www.darlingtonschool.org/summer/
Check out our Online Exclusive for a round-up of camps for your consideration. (Please keep in mind Up in Cumming® magazine has not inspected any camp listed and listing a camp does not imply our endorsement of it.)
© 2011 Jacqueline Thompson Graves
What do you like to do outdoors? Drop me an email and share your favorite activity or place to go. firstname.lastname@example.org