Who’s ready for summer camp? Popular area camps back following pandemic

Many Ohio families should qualify for state funding to send kids to tutoring, summer camp.

Summer camps were a rite of passage for children for decades until the pandemic wreaked havoc on them because of COVID-19 spread fears and hiring issues the past two years.

This year, summer camps have found some creative solutions to hiring, meaning some popular camps, including ones run through the cities of Kettering and Dayton, still have limited slots available for families.

Money to help keep costs down is also available for some families. Families who make less than 400% of the poverty line - $120,000 for a family of four in Ohio – can get a $1,000 credit through the Ohio Afterschool Child Enrichment program to use for summer camp, tutoring or music lessons. Families who live in some school districts with low attendance rates are also qualified.

The goal of the program is to get more young kids back into activities where they are around other kids. Experts say the pandemic has caused kids to be isolated, leading to behavioral issues at schools and mental health problems.

Josh Sullenberger, senior vice president for the YMCA of Greater Dayton, said the YMCA put more effort into marketing available jobs, but also recruited high school students from Europe and South America as camp counselors.

“There are companies in other countries that work to help provide international staff to United States and its programs each summer,” Sullenberger said. “We work those entities to be able to bring staff in from Europe and South America to help provide those folks with an experience, but also to give our kids a diversified experience at camp.”

He said the YMCA will continue to hire through the summer because they can then add more classrooms if they have more staff.

Sullenberger said there are 12 different day camp locations across the region. The YMCA’s summer camps run from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sullenberger said enrollment is up from last year, and the YMCA will host about 1,000 kids per day across all its locations. He suggested folks reach out to their local YMCA if they are interested to see if there are still spots open.

Beavercreek’s Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting about 68 kids per week this year, said Katy Carrico, spokeswoman for the city of Beavercreek.

Carrico said most camps have waiting lists but said there are a few spots left at select camps. The camps are open to non-Beavercreek residents, but Beavercreek residents are able to get a discount if they sign up.

Carrico said the city was able to fill all 11 needed staff positions, and many staff members returned from last year.

Ken Paxson, a spokesman for Kettering’s parks and recreation department, said this year the camps are open to non-Kettering residents. Some openings are still available at the Rosewood Arts Center, the Habitat Environmental Center, and some sports camps at the Kettering Recreation Complex.

Last year, Kettering closed camps to residents outside of Kettering because of a lack of staffing. Paxson said the city was more proactive in recruiting this year, using social media campaigns and job fairs, as well as working with the school district, to get the word out that staff were needed.

“As far as staffing, our team took proactive measures by expanding our recruiting efforts and initiating the hiring process much earlier than in previous years,” Paxson said.

The city of Dayton’s summer camps, run at Lohrey Recreation Center and Northwest Recreation Center, have a handful of spaces available for some age groups. The camps are for ages three through 12, divided into smaller age groups, said Lisa Barhorst, Division Manager, Recreation and Youth Services for the Department of Recreation.

“Parents must register their child(ren) at one of the recreation centers,” Barhorst said. “They must turn paperwork in and pay before that spot is held for their child.”

Barhorst said increasing the pay last year for camp counselors helped recruit more people to work for Dayton summer camps, which helped this year as well. She said they had filled all their staff positions.

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