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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recap: ACA Summer Camp Fair- Tenafly

This article (courtesy of The Record) not only discusses the ACA Summer Camp Fair in Tenafly, but the difficulties families are finding in affording camp.  Where enrollment used to be complete by January's end, they are now unsure of attendance.  Families are opting for alternatives to camps like spending time with grandparents.  Camps, however, continue to expand, but at what cost?  So much so that families can no longer afford enrollment fees?  

The fair proved to be worthwhile, and you're not too late!  There is another ACA Camp Fair planned for January 29th at from 12-4 at the Woodcliff Lake Hilton 200 Tice Blvd in Woodcliff Lake, NJ.   Admission is free.  

Summer camps showcase their offerings at Tenafly fair
Sunday, January 23, 2011
As a frigid wind sliced through North Jersey on Sunday, dozens of families inTenafly kept their eyes on summer.
Zachary Spindel, 8, watches a promotional video for Spring  Lake Day Camp of Ridgewood at the American Camp Association fair in Tenafly.
Zachary Spindel, 8, watches a promotional video for Spring Lake Day Camp of Ridgewood at the American Camp Association fair in Tenafly.
Summer camp, to be exact. The American Camp Association held a fair at the Clinton Inn, allowing more than two dozen summer camps to showcase their offerings: pristine lakes, Olympic-sized pools and activities that include sports, drama, dance, cooking and art.
With costs typically ranging from $300 to more than $1,000 per week, parents and camp representatives agreed that the difficult economy of the last several years has affected families’ approach to summer camp.
“How could it not?” asked Sara Spindel of Tenafly, a substitute teacher who is trying to land a full-time job. She has sent her 8-year-old twins to the town’s summer recreation program in part because it is less expensive than other camps, but wanted to check out the camp fair “to find out what’s out there.”
By the numbers
* 11.5 million in U.S. attend camp each year.
* Weekly cost can range from $300 to more than $1,000 (for both day camp and sleep away).
* About 90 percent of camps offer scholarships.
* About 58 percent of camps reported that in 2010, they had the same or higher enrollment as during the past five years.
Source: American Camp Association
Camp employees said that many families have economized by cutting back on the number of weeks they send their children to camp. “They’ll go to grandma’s for two weeks and spend fewer weeks at camp,” said Erica Bixby, director of Camp Y-Oak-A, a day camp operated by the Ridgewood YWCA.
Camp representatives said more families have applied for financial aid, while others wait until the last minute to sign up because they want to make sure their family finances are on solid ground.
“Some wait to see what their tax refund is,” said Dana Solomon, lakefront director at Spring Lake Day Camp in Ringwood.
“It used to be that by January, we knew what our enrollment would be, but now we may not know until April or May,” said Tom Riddleberger, owner of Campus Kids, a weekday sleep-away camp — kids come home on weekends — with locations in Blairstown and Port Jervis, N.Y.
But Riddleberger and several other camp directors said the worst appears to be over, with more parents apparently ready to spend on the camp experience. For many families, camp is necessary because both parents work and need summertime child care.
“We only get three weeks of vacation, not 10 weeks,” said Mercedes Garcia ofNutley, who works in social services and is the mother of two boys, aged 10 and 13.
Several parents said they were determined to give their kids the camp experience they had loved as children. And all had the same answer when asked what they had treasured most:
“Lifetime friends,” said Spindel, who went to a sleep-away camp on Lake Como in Pennsylvania.
“Forty years later, I’m still in touch with friends from camp,” said Howard Rosenthal, an art auctioneer from Englewood Cliffs who was at the fair with his wife and two children.
To attract these parents in a competitive environment, camps have expanded and upgraded their offerings. Summer camp is not just hiking, swimming and kickball; camps now offer elaborate water-park-style pools, art and dance studios, rock climbing walls, zip lines and more. Spring Lake offers five heated swimming pools. Camp Y-Oak-A is adding field trips, while its sister camp, Ma-Kee-Ya in Harriman State Park, has added paddle boats and sailing lessons.
The Musso family of Tenafly was at the camp fair, trying to figure out if their 12-year-old daughter, Nina, is ready for sleep-away camp. She likes the idea of being responsible and independent, but she added, “Sometimes you want to be with your family.”
Anna Sheppard, a pharmaceutical research manager from Harrington Park, was checking out camps for her 8-year-old son, Kyle, but also asked about counselor jobs for her 18-year-old.
Kyle, who loves sports, hopes to return to Gate Hill Day Camp in Stony Point, which he attended last summer. “I’d rather go to camp than play video games,” he said. “There’s a lot more fun things to do.”
E-mail: lynn@northjersey.com

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