CADILLAC – Summer is almost here, and a popular trademark of the season are the many local camps offering a variety of activities for children in the community. While camp is still a few months away, many organizations are still open for registration.
The Cadillac YMCA-run summer program, Camp Torenta, has been accepting registration since mid-March, according to Executive Director Mike Kelso. Week one of camp begins June 20, and will continue on a weekly basis until Aug. 5. As of right now, Kelso said they haven’t had any weeks reach capacity, but some have reached half capacity.
Parents can register their children, ages six to 12, for one or more weeks of camp at a time with a rate of $ 140 per week for YMCA members, and $ 180 for nonmembers. The program runs from Monday to Friday, starting at 9 am and ending at 4 pm, although extended drop off and pick up are available for an additional charge of $ 25 per week.
Over the past two years, the Camp Torenta model did shift to better incorporate COVID-19 guidelines. Now that cases have begun to decline, Kelso said it is less of a focus, but the way groups will be mixed and organized will be taken into consideration. Additionally, the pandemic brought on an employee shortage, which encouraged camp organizers to work with other agencies to provide programming and staffing.
“We’re looking to solidify those to continue with, like MSU Extension coming in and providing some program leadership, working with some behavioral health specialists and different agencies to help with some of that work,” Kelso said. “So that, one, just brings us a specific skill set and human resource, just for the talent and experience they have, but also helps with the number of seasonal staff that we have to hire.”
Michigan State University Extension was able to be a part of Camp Torenta programming last summer, and as of right now, Kelso said they’ve been able to commit to participating about once a week for the upcoming season.
Traditional outdoor activities are Camp Torenta’s program focus. Kids will participate in canoeing, kayaking, nature hikes, arts and crafts, and more.
Kelso said the Camp Torenta experience is a combination of education and a family outdoor vacation, which is what generates appeal for parents. When they’re assigned to their camp groups, he said they become like smaller families within the camp structure, making it a great opportunity for kids to socialize.
“I characterize it sometimes, if you took an elementary school, and you took the walls off, how much would that change the environment? A lot, ”he said. “So our focus is fun and outdoor experience, hands-on experience, rather than theory and a lot of reading at a desk or anything like that, but it is still learning in a different environment.”
Taking the traditional learning environment and moving it outdoors is also the mission of Forest and Farm, a nature-based agriculture program, run by Cadillac Farmer’s Market LLC owner Mary Galvanek. At the moment, Forest and Farm is being run under a childcare license, but Galvanek said they should be receiving their summer camp license before the season arrives, which would extend their daily capacity from 15 children to 30.
Forest and Farm’s programs runs for six weeks total, Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 3 pm Each week centers around a different agriculture-focused topic. MSU Extension, 4-H and the Missaukee Conservation District will all be providing programming through the camp’s duration.
Week one is centered around raising and caring for different animals, including goats, ducks, chickens and turkeys. Climate change is the main topic for week two, followed by a study of water and varieties of bugs for weeks three and four.
Galvanek said that week five is a favorite for most of the kids in her program, because it’s all about mud.
“We make mud pie mandalas. We’ll be introducing our new mud kitchen to the playground, and they make a mud river. We talk about mud baths, and it’s just everything dirt, ”she said. “And the children are so filthy, you have to hose them down, like back in the ’50s, before they get into their parents’ car.”
Finally, six weeks is all about harvesting vegetables. Galvanek said the parents won’t have to grocery shop that week, because they’ll all be going home with a full supply of produce.
Approaching animals and agricultural practices with compassion and respect is the Forest and Farm mission. Teaching kids the importance of taking care of the earth and the climate is Galvanek’s focus in the program, and what she said makes it unique.
“So really what stands us alone is our mission statement is that we live out of love, and we lead with compassion,” she said. “That’s in every butterfly, every farm animal, every child or parent that walks through the doors, down to our UPS man and our Mandarin teacher from Taipei. It is all about kindness, all the time. ”
Registration for Forest and Farm can be done through their email email@example.com.
If interacting with animals is a summer camp must, then Maple Leaf Farm and Creamery in Falmouth can provide. Owner Jeanne Suggate has been running a summer Farm Camp out of her creamery for several years. The camp is separated into four different sessions, covering preschool ages to eighth grade.
Preschool to kindergarten camp runs from June 14 to 15, from 10 am to 1 pm First, second and third grade camp will run from June 27 to 29 from 10 am to 3 pm
Fourth, fifth and sixth grade campers will gather from July 11 to 13 from 10 am to 3 pm Finally, the seventh and eighth graders will attend July 25 to 27 from 10 am to 3 pm The cost for all camps is $ 75.
As a goat-only farm, the program includes a day dedicated to spending time with the goats on the farm, feeding them and learning to milk them.
Another main activity for the camp is making cheese. While the kids aren’t aging or producing the actual cheese themselves, they will be adding in different herbs and flavoring to make it their own. Additionally, the kids will play games, do crafts and participate in a treasure hunt.
The community response toward camp has always been positive, Suggate said, and although she has open positions left, they’re filling up fast. Several campers are even coming from out of state.
Registration is currently open for the Maple Leaf Farm and Creamery camp, and a form can be completed on their website.
Many camps run their programs in a day camp style, and while that’s true for Rose Lake Youth Camp in LeRoy, they also run a more traditional residential camp experience.
During residential camp, participants stay the night, camping in a tent, for one or more weeks at a time. Both residential and day camps begin on June 19 and run through the end of July.
The cost for a week of day camp is $ 115 per week, per child, and $ 200 for a week of residential camp.
Camp activities include arts and crafts, archery, swimming and nature walks.
Board President John Jaques said many of the activities remain the same for both day and residential camps, but some are different depending on the age group. Running the program in this manner is what Jaques said sets them apart from other organizations in the area.
“We have campers that range from seven until about 12. We take the older kids, and we have an off-site camping place where our kids can canoe across the lake,” Jaques said. “And they go over there with a counselor, they cook their own food, they spend the night there, they come back, and then we have the littles meet them when they come back in the morning and have breakfast ready for them to kind of introduce that service aspect. ”
Like many other organizations, staffing has been a difficulty for Rose Lake over the last few years. Jaques is confident that the staffing will be sufficient for the season, but said they have several open slots for varying positions.
In terms of recruiting campers, Jaques said they have plenty of room in their earlier camp weeks for both day and residential camps. If they do fill up, campers will then be placed on a wait list and will fill any empty slots. The hard deadline to register is June 1, otherwise there will be additional fees for later applications.
For families who might struggle to cover camp costs, Rose Lake does provide a scholarship program to campers in Mecosta, Osceola, Lake and Wexford counties.