Summer camp focus heads outdoors again

And no camp would be complete without a fire pit, where all the campers gather every morning to sing, dance and talk over the day's activities.

"These are traditions we've started, and the returning kids are asking for it," said Assistant Director Lana Bunning.

The camp counselors set the activities and the schedule themselves, using what they've learned in past seasons to concoct a program the campers are most likely to enjoy. Every week has a theme, as well. Last week's activities were luau-based, culminating in contests involving hula skirts and "poison coconuts" (water balloons). Next week, the campers will break into Wild West towns and play a game of gold rush on Friday, racing about camp to find gold-painted rocks.

"I call it 'Fun Fridays,' when we have a theme and do activities based on the theme," said Activities Director Joanna DePace. "We try every Friday to add water, because kids love water and it's hot out."

Campers also get to take a field trip every Wednesday.

There are 17 counselors on staff this year, and they'll generally oversee groups of a dozen campers. The Y fielded well over 200 applications for the summer positions.

"A lot of the counselors have grown up in the Y...they're really, really tied into the mission of the Y, and I think they're great with the kids," Bethlehem YMCA Executive Director Derek Martin said.

The camp is open to kids ages five to 14 (there is a half-day component for preschoolers) and runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Families can sign children up for a single week or for multiple weeks. The theme weeks, field trips and variety of activities means even nine-week campers are not likely to get bored.

While the summer camp program is growing every year, it's poised to make a big leap in 2012. By then, it's hoped a new pavilion and soccer field will be installed behind the Y.

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