NEW CITY — For children, the end of the school year brings visions of swimming pools, bike rides and two months of fun and freedom.
The reality for working parents is that this time of year often brings the challenge of finding safe, reliable summer child care without breaking the bank.
That’s where CSEA comes in. Across the state, our members oversee municipal summer camps and playground programs that offer kids many summertime experiences without giving parents the sticker- shock cost that private summer camp tuition can bring.
Another valuable public service
Municipalities offer the camps as a public service.
“It’s a tremendous value,” said CSEA member Ruth Betz, a recreation information clerk who handles registration for the roughly 1,500 children taking part in camps offered through the Town of Clarkstown Recreation and Parks Department. “We have a full day program with early and late pickup for working parents, and we have a shorter summer playground option where kids can come for a few hours. We also have mini-camps during different holiday breaks throughout the school year.”
Clarkstown uses local schools and community centers as day camp sites, offering arts and crafts, sports, games, scavenger hunts and more. Campers are bused each day to one of the town’s three pool complexes for swimming. Optional field trips round out the offerings, with trips including bowling, miniature golf, a nearby water park, and Medieval Times. End of summer specialty camps are geared toward popular areas of interest, including a fashion design camp planned for this summer.
Chance to develop job skills
The experience is such a positive one that many teenagers return even after they’re too old to attend as campers.
“A lot of the kids applying for jobs are prior campers,” said Alex Banyckyj, the senior recreation leader who recently took on the duties of camp director. “They’ll tell us that the counselors were so good when they were campers that it made them want to come back and work here.”
High schoolers and college students gain job experience while sharing their talents and interests.
“If we have someone who is a gymnast or cheerleader, for example, we try to find a way to incorporate that,” said Recreation and Parks Superintendent Elaine Apfelbaum, a former CSEA unit president. “I want them to be creative. I tell them to pretend they are the camper, and put themselves in their shoes before planning anything.”
Whether you’re a camper, a counselor hired for summer or full time CSEA-represented staff, the camp experience often forms lifelong friendships.
“Over the six weeks of camp, everyone becomes like a family,” said Banyckyj.
— Jessica Ladlee