Accredited camps in the area offer a wide variety of programs.
By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
Savvy parents are probably already thinking about what they'll do with footloose kids once school's out.
One of the most popular remedies for summertime boredom, summer camp is an option that requires some planning.
Those same savvy parents just may be considering which camps are right for their kids. But camp directors have been preparing for those kids for some time.
Besides the obvious -- cleaning cabins, checking equipment, hiring counselors -- camp directors are finding that things like accreditation, public relations and national listings are helping them match campers with what their camps have to offer.
Publications: Parents can check out publications like one from the American Camping Association, which lists dozens of camps in the area and offers tips for choosing the right facility.
The ACA, a national review body, inspects camps to ensure they operate safely and follow a detailed set of standards. Camps are inspected every three years.
Like most of the local camps listed, Camp Fitch still has openings for most of its eight one-week camping periods. But the slots are often filled by mid-June, said Fitch director, William Lyder. Camp Fitch has camps for girls and boys ages 8 to 16.
The camp offers archery, rock climbing, horseback riding, aquatics and canoeing, among other things. Campers also can go sailing and windsurfing on Lake Erie.
Trip to Spain: Any child 14 or older can register for a monthlong trip to Spain this summer. The deadline is May 15, Lyder said.
It generally takes little time to get used to camping and being away from family.
"Most kids hit the ground running and have no problems adjusting," Lyder said, adding it takes about two days to overcome homesickness.
Special interest programs include a computer camp, competitive swimming and a diabetic camp for special-needs children. A Major League Soccer coach from England will conduct a weeklong soccer camp in July, Lyder mentioned.
Camp Frederick still has openings for up to 500 kids from kindergarten through 12th grade. The Rogers facility is open mid-June through mid-August, said Andrew Molnar, co-director.
Featured is a service event camp, which encourages the kids to be more community-minded. This summer, they will work with Interfaith Home Maintenance, which assists low-income homeowners with painting and other repairs.
The camp also offers horseback riding, whitewater rafting and other traditional activities, Molnar mentioned.
For girls: Sugarbush in Kinsman runs five weeks of residential camp with 20 programs for Girl Scouts and other girls 6 to 16. The horseback riding program fills fast, according to Donna DeFiore, director. Also featured are troop camping and a father-daughter and mother-daughter program. An August camp for special-needs children accepts any child with a disability, DeFiore said.
Sugarbush is still taking registrations; some programs have openings into June. But the sooner you register, the better, DeFiore also said.
Most of Elliott's sessions also are filled by June, said Gary Frishkorn, a sites manager. Girls who aren't Scouts, however, can join the Volant, Pa.-based Girl Scout camp, he said, adding that a Girl Scout membership is $7 a year.
Frishkorn also said the ACA accreditation is reassuring to parents.
"It means a lot to know you're running a good program. I think people take that into account," he said.
In Mercer: Camp Nazareth in Mercer, Pa., has weekly religious groups throughout the summer, including a Family Day celebration June 10. Parents should register at least two weeks before sending their kids, said The Rev. R. Michael Zak, director. New groups should register about six months in advance, he added.
The Rev. Zak said the camp is generally filled June through August. However, May is open to groups for certain times.
Heinz House Camp in Ellwood City, Pa., which opened last week, has a two-week summer camp for members and nonmembers. Those who aren't members, though, have to pay twice as much, said Robert Bechtold, director.
Heinz House features a Rustic Camp program in which boys and girls swim in a creek and sleep, along with their counselors, in platform tents. A flashlight is the only electrical device they're allowed, Bechtold said.
"We want them to leave their city toys at home and realize how fun nature is," he explained.
Being ACA-accredited has given Heinz House a chance to get ideas from other camping programs, Bechtold added.
DeFiore said most kids "fall in love with camping once they get out there." She also offered advice to parents.
"Listen to your children and hear what they want. Let them make choices," she said.