Written by: Kate Snyder, Executive Assistant
Well, it’s 90 degrees outside and the humidity is pushing 80%. It must be summer. And to me, summer equals day camp. I spent every summer during my formative years at a variety of camps. They were mainly day-camps at the local YMCA, spent making friendship bracelets, playing kickball, and swimming like a fish. My favorite camp experiences were the few weeks I got to spend at a sleep-away horseback riding camp. Like any rural Midwestern girl worth my salt, I thought horses were just about the greatest thing in the world and I took riding lessons for years growing up. When I moved to Pittsburgh, it took me a bit by surprise to realize that a lot of the kids in the city have never actually seen a horse in the flesh. Lucky for them, a horseback riding trip is just one of the many fabulous experiences awaiting them at EECM’s Summer Day Camp.
Summer Day Camp runs for five weeks during the summer and is attended by more than 200 urban youth ages 5-16. The camp features a wide variety of sports and games, arts and crafts, music, dancing and drama as well as age-appropriate outings to various local attractions like the Pittsburgh Zoo, The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, the Carnegie Science Center, local amusement parks, and, of course, a horseback riding ranch.
It’s a fun and fabulous experience full of all the things that childhood should be full of: laughter, play, and sun-kissed noses. As with all of our programs at EECM, however, there is more to Summer Day Camp than frolicking. The target population for Camp is at-risk youth, drawn from neighborhoods characterized by high levels of violence, substance abuse, unemployment, and poverty. The overall goal of the camp, then, is to empower and equip these young people, who are so often exposed to negative environmental influences, with the necessary information, skills and world outlook to negotiate these challenges in their lives.
Every year, all Camp activities are centered on an ethical theme. Every segment of Camp, from music to dance to life learning lessons, is planned to tie into the year’s theme. In 2006, to help youngsters address problems they experienced at home, the theme was “Turning Life Struggles into Life Celebrations.” The culmination of Summer Day Camp is a dramatic production at the end of the five weeks, planned and executed by the campers, which showcases the lessons and skills they have learned and speaks to the theme of Camp.
Summer Camp is one of those experiences that all children should be allowed to have. Some of my happiest childhood memories – and one of my best friends – came from those golden summer days. I look forward to seeing our youth share those experiences and hope to relive a few myself. After all, you’re never too old for a friendship bracelet.