Story and photos by Sarah Crookall
Summer is in full swing at the YMCA. Dancing, games and laughter radiated throughout the Mary Street building last Thursday during the organization’s Summer Camps.
Camp kicked-off July 3 with a range of activities for children to participate in. From sports and aquatics, variety to dance, drama and other creative arts, children aged five to 15 are actively engaged from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. throughout the week.
“I try to get a special guest every week to come out and plan it around their theme days. So we do a lot of different activities here and the kids get the opportunity to learn new things,” said camp director Samantha Arthur.
Since last week was Hollywood week, children performed dances Thursday morning, which were filmed as a keepsake. Local heroes, Oshawa firefighters also returned from a previous visit during super hero week to show off a fire truck.
Throughout Durham Region, YMCA camps offer day trips as well as indoor camps to suit parental preference. For older children, the youth leadership camp helps develop leadership and volunteer skills while contributing to community service hours.
At camp, Friday is dress up day and for fun campers and counselors are given camp names. “Purple” is Arthur’s camp name, which she often hears called out to her outside of camp. Since Arthur has been involved in camp for three years, she has seen many children grow.
“I see the difference in a lot of the children. A lot of these children would normally just be at home watching T.V or playing video games all day,” she said. “It’s great to see that they’re out, they’re being physically active, they’re socializing with other children and they’re learning new things.”
Six-year-old James Langille is enrolled in aquatics for a second year at camp and loves it. “When he went back to school after camp at the Y last year, the school couldn’t believe it was the same little boy,” said his great aunt, Denise Langille. “He comes home everyday with some kind of song or rhyme.”
Thanks to Catch a Star Foundation and Armstrong Funeral Home, James was honoured with a sponsorship for camp. Since Langille has independent custody over James and works in real-estate, the YMCA offers healthy activities while providing reliable childcare.
“They really care here. They really make James feel important and special. He doesn’t have a whole lot of family around him, so it’s like an extended family for him,” said Langille.
Summer Camps are involved with the Strong Kids Campaign, which raises funds for children to participate in YMCA programs. Because of the campaign, low income families can apply for financial assistance during registration.
“A lot of times due to financial reasons families don’t get that opportunity, but with financial assistance with our Strong Kids funding, we at least provide families with a two-week or four-week experience.”
In addition to financial assistance, the YMCA also provides one on one care for children with special needs.
This year, registration has more than doubled, with 119 campers enrolled this past week. The cost of camp ranges from $150 to $450 depending on the camp and duration of stay.
Camp will continue to run until August 31, so there is still time to participate. Children can also look forward to an upcoming Olympic theme.
Arthur is enthusiastic about Summer Camps and the positive impact on the children.. “I feel that every child should experience camp at least one in their life, it makes such a great impact,” she said.