Summer at the ‘Y’

Published 10:06 pm Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pool time: Girls in the YMCA day camp enjoy their time in the pool on Tuesday. Every group gets to visit the pool every day at the camp, which includes 230 children each week throughout the summer.

YMCA camp instills core values, lets kids have fun

Swimming and crafts are two staples of summer camps, but very few camps offer Zumba.

However, those are some of the main activities at summer camp at the Suffolk Family YMCA, which hosts 230 children per week in day camp.

“We’re one big family,” said Tonja Williams, who is in charge of the day camps. Campers and parents call her “Ms. T.”

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Many of the children in the camp otherwise would be sitting at home with nothing to do, Williams said.

“They would be latchkey kids in the summer,” she said.

Each day at camp begins with the opening assembly, which includes the Pledge of Allegiance, prayer, the honor pledge and singalongs.

“It’s like a pep rally,” Williams said. “Not just for the kids, but for the counselors as well.”

The rest of the day is filled with games, sports, pool time, arts and crafts and more.

Every Friday, special events such as a barn dance, fashion show and talent show are held.

“Parents even take off so they can come to the talent show,” Williams said.

The large group is separated into a number of smaller groups by grade and sex for most of the day’s activities. The groups choose names for their groups such as “The Wolfpack” and have a chant that goes along with their name.

“We’re all a family, but we have little mini-families,” Williams said.

Groups that behave particularly well get the chance to have movie time.

“We try to make sure that every day we instill our core values — caring, respect, honesty, faith and responsibility,” Williams said, referring to the core values of the YMCA.

Individual campers who do things demonstrating the core values get rewarded with bead necklaces at a “bead ceremony,” held twice a week. They also have the chance to get named Camper of the Week.

There also is a counselor-in-training program, where students ages 13 to 15 — many of them former campers — get to help out with the campers.

“I’ve hired four or five of them,” Williams said.

CITs and counselors also have the chance to be named CIT or Counselor of the Week. The winners get free meals and other perks donated by local businesses.

The program is part of the Open Doors YMCA scholarship program, which provides reduced costs for memberships and other services to those in need.

Registration for the summer camps begins in February every year, and spaces go quickly, Williams said. This summer, there’s a waiting list for every week except the last week.

For more information about programs offered by the YMCA, call 934-9622.