What's New at Camp This Summer?

July 18th, 2017 by Gina DeHaan

As the temperatures begin to climb and sunny days chase away cool weather, it’s clear that summer is in full swing.

Some of my fondest childhood memories live at the place that encompasses just about everything that makes summer great: summer camp! To this day, I still have my “Bullseye Award” hand-painted wooden plaque that I received for getting the first bullseye of the summer on Camp Roger’s new archery targets. As a young camper, it made my summer.

West Michigan’s creative camp directors and their dedicated staff work hard year-round to keep this summertime staple fresh and exciting for kids.

Here are some cool trends to look for in area camps:

Real Time Over Screen Time

As our society, especially its youth, is becoming increasingly dependent on technology, summer camps are stepping up as a place where kids can unplug. When campers take a break from their screens, they are exposed to a whole new (and real) world where they can get outdoors, be active and form authentic friendships, but also slow down and recharge, reconnect with nature and learn more about themselves.

In a recent article released by the American Camp Association, notable educator, author and psychologist Dr. Peter Scales commends the unique opportunities that summer camp offers your child. “Camp is one of the few institutions where young people can experience and satisfy their need for physical activity, creative expression and true participation in a community environment.”

“Nowadays, it’s kind of crazy to think of a kid having no screen time for an entire week,” reflects Kevin VanderKlok, the executive director of Camp Geneva. “But during our sessions, we rarely hear a camper wish he had his computer or complain that she doesn’t have her phone. Camp is built on relationships and discovering those relationships is great for kids.”

Food to Fuel

Camps are revamping their menus to ensure that your kids have nutritious meals to fuel them for their fun-filled days. In addition to making a shift towards healthy eating, many camps have hired dieticians to help accommodate campers with food allergies.

This summer, Camp Geneva will host over 500 campers with varying dietary needs. If your child has food allergies, you will receive a call from Camp Geneva’s food service team two weeks before you send your child off to camp. “We want to fully understand campers’ personal nutrition needs, so their food experience doesn’t present itself as a barrier for the rest of the camp experience,” notes VanderKlok.

A Collaborative Camp Network

Although there is an abundance of summer camps in the area and a limited number of potential campers, camps choose to collaborate rather than compete. West Michigan camps make a collective effort to stay connected and build a strong community to make sure they are serving their campers, your children, as well as they can.

For example, in September, Camp Geneva, Camp Roger and Camp Henry are partnering on a 5k Fun Run. The camps hope that this race will bring the community together and give local businesses the opportunity to sponsor camp scholarships. More detailed information will be coming soon, so stay tuned to the camps’ websites to see how your family can get involved.

Stretching beyond the West Michigan Camp network, local camp directors and staff, such as the team at Camp Blodgett, attend the annual American Camp Association Midstates Conference to network and stay up-to-date with the industry’s best practices.

When Camp Blodgett considers starting, stopping or revising existing programs, executive director Brian Paul emphasizes that the kids remain at the heart of its mission. “We look at how beneficial a new program would be to the camper. Is it going to be safe for all our participants? Will it be fun? What will our campers learn from this, or how will they grow from this experience?”

From academic to athletic to adventure-themed camps, each has something unique to offer. Use our List Guide to browse camps by category and find the summer camp that’s right for your camper.


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