summer camps

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Spending the summer at camp

By Laura Johnston

Southeast Missourian

Kim Phelps wasn't ready to pack her bags for a summer camp far from home, and she wasn't really sure she'd have any fun even if she went.

But when the 8-year-old girl arrived for day camp with the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department, she was surprised.

"When my mom told me I thought it would be hiking and stuff," she said. "But it's really crafts and going to different places. I like being at the parks."

The day camp is for children ages 6 to 14 and includes games, crafts and group activities. Each day is spent at a different park, but Wednesdays at the Capaha pool are probably the most fun, the children say.

Beating summertime boredom isn't difficult for some area youth because their calendars are jam-packed with activities. Many, like Phelps, will spend at least one week of their summer -- and oftentimes more than that -- at camp.

And their options are plentiful: there are camps for nearly every sport you can imagine, from golf to gymnastics, and outdoor camps sponsored by the parks and recreation department, scouting camps, church camps and even theater camps.

Lara Golike has been working with the camp program at the parks department. She thinks the children enjoy having a place to play and something to do for the summer.

Having fun at day camp is really the main objective, she said. "We have crafts and games and sports and something to keep them busy."

Only when it's really hot outdoors do the children get antsy for air conditioning but taking plenty of water breaks keeps them going, she said.

"They just like to play on the playgrounds a lot."

But other activities include canoeing at Capaha Park, rock climbing, swimming and playing games like Capture the Flag and volleyball or soccer.

Breaking the children into age groups helps them relate better, and gives them a chance to make friends.

Phelps said that's been one of the things she liked about camp: making new friends. "I didn't know anybody before so I've made some new friends," she said as she took a break from an art project.

For Matthew Yuede camping with his fellow Cub Scouts is the highlight of the summer.

"I like coming but you have to wait a long time from last year," the 9-year-old said. "I like it because it's something to do on a summer day."

About 180 boys were enrolled in the Cub Scout day camp that concluded Friday. Any scout in the Shawnee District of the Boy Scouts is eligible to attend the camp, which is held at Cape County Park South.

During the day, the boys work in groups on badges for knot-tying, artistry and sports. Afternoons include swimming or fishing or guest speakers from the Missouri Conservation Department. After learning about engineering, they even built bridges from popcicle sticks.

But the marksmanship of shooting BB guns or archery skills are the most fun activities, the boys say. But C.J. Jackson, 9, of Jackson, Mo., thought the BB guns were the hardest part of camp. "You have to hit these tiny pieces of paper with the gun," he said.

The camp isn't just fun, all the scouts work toward new badges during the week. Camp just lets them have fun while they're doing that work, said director Pam Petzoldt.

Sports camps often seem like more work than fun since the campers spend a good portion of their day in workouts and getting exercise.

But gymnastics camp, sponsored through the gymnastics program at Southeast Missouri State University, also teaches its campers some new skills each summer.

Almost 90 children were enrolled in the camp this year, which makes it one of the larger sports camps offered. And both boys and girls enrolled.

Ali Van Lue and Brianna Gidday are both from St. Louis but like coming to Cape Girardeau for camp. It gives them a chance to try new things that they don't get to do at their own gym back home, they said.

"And it's fun to stay in the dorms with all your friends," Van Lue said.

335-6611, extension 126

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