A new take on summer camp: YMCA program to include field trip every week, themed weeks

Published 3:56 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

As summer draws closer parents begin to wonder what activities are available for children so they can stay active both physically and mentally when school is not in session. This year, there will be a fun new option at the Albert Lea YMCA: Adventure Summer Camps 2024.

YMCA day camp has been going on for years but needed to be modified during the COVID-19 pandemic, taking on a structure similar to day care. This year, the staff is hoping to go back to a program that feels more like summer camp. In this way they hope to better serve both the campers who participate and their parents.

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“Our camps were previously held on site, and we would take a couple field trips a year,” said Brandy Schewe, senior director of programs at the Y. She has worked in this role for a year and a half and is excited about the changes on the horizon this year.

“Being a parent, I want the kids to want to be here,” she said. “I feel like we don’t spend enough time outside and kids need that outside, that sunshine, that fresh air and so just for them to be able to have these experiences.”

In February, Brooke Larsen began a position at the Y as after school and summer day camp coordinator. Larsen has a background in education and spent several years working as a paraeducator for the Glenville school district, the town where she currently resides.

“I was a Y camp kid growing up, and it was so fun,” Larsen said. “We literally spent the entire day outside, in nature, and we’re kind of looking to bring that feel back so it’s not like being dropped off at day care.”

Larsen said she is excited to bring her experience as a former camp participant to make this year the best that it can be.

“I want parents to think about that nostalgia of when they went to camp and then their kids to be able to experience the same thing,” Schewe added.

This year will be different from previous years in that there will be 12 weeks of camp with a different theme for each week. Some examples of themes include Master Chefs, Out of This World and Junior Olympics.

“The thought process behind it is parents sign their kids up for the weeks that they have interest in,” Larsen said. “Pick and choose a few different sessions or pick them all.”

In the past, camp had activities that were loosely centered around a theme. This year however, Larsen is looking to integrate the theme into everything.

Additionally, kids will go on a field trip each week.

“We’re really focused on bringing as many experiences as we can to meet the theme of the week,” Larsen said.

Schewe said they also hope to mentor the youth who participate.

“The core values of the Y are honesty, caring, respect and responsibility, so our goal is that these kids start to feel those things when they’re younger and then they can move up into leadership roles in the community, at the Y, at the schools … so that’s a big piece of what we want to do with the camps that we offer,” she said.

Adventure Summer Camp at the Y is for children who have just completed kindergarten through completed fifth grade. Schewe and Larsen encourage parents to sign up their children for camp as soon as possible as spots are limited to 40 children per session. For more information about cost and descriptions of each session, visit the YMCA website at ymca.org. Informational flyers will be sent out to all area schools as well.

To make camp as affordable as possible, the Y offers an option to pay a $25 deposit for each week and then make small payments over the next few months before camp begins. There are also scholarships available.