Camp’s Not Just for Kids!
At family sessions, parents can relax and enjoy nature too.

by Cathy Ashby

For More Info

To find a listing of family camps across the country, visit the American Camp Association at www.acacamps.org (click: Find a Camp, then Adults
and Families).

You’ve spent hours researching camps for your kids, and, quite frankly, you’re getting pretty jealous. Swimming and hiking and campfires and card games — all that sounds like fun to you, too.

Good news: This may be your summer to enjoy camp alongside your kids. The number of American Camp Association-accredited camps that offer family camp sessions has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

Many Styles
Like camps for young people, family camps vary in theme, length of stay, cost and activity. They offer exciting, cross-generational programming and activities in settings that traditionally catered only to the young.

Some family camps are held over holidays or long weekends to help working parents fit the programs into their busy schedules; others run longer, offering an exciting new option in family vacations. As different as the programs are, they share a deep commitment to family bonding and community building.

During the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, YMCA Camps Ockanickon and Matollionequay in Medford, NJ have offered family camp sessions “for as long as I can remember,” says Tony Lea, the camps’ group services director.

“It’s a traditional camp program that is family centered,” he says. Families check in Friday evening and check out any time up till Mondays at 3pm. Each family has its own cabin.”
Together, parents and kids enjoy activities such as boating, swimming and horesback riding. “Sometimes we schedule a separate younger child pro-gram while the adults go relax,” says Lea.

“Families come here to enjoy a good time together,” says Cris Higginbotham, marketing director for Camp Friendship in Palmyra, VA. “Parents like to participate with the kids and experience camp atmosphere together. But we also have activities that are just for the kids to give parents time to themselves.”

Camp Friendship offers family camp from Aug. 20-Sept. 3, after its regular summer camp ends. Families can attend for a weekend, the full two weeks or anything in betweeen.

From canoe fishing to fencing, family camps introduce adults and children to a wide range of activities.

Lisa Kasser, who has owned and operated Burn Brae Day Camp of Creative Arts in Dresher, PA for 26 years, decided this year to launch six family camp Saturdays in July and early August. “I had so many people say to me, ‘I wish I could go to your camp’ that finally I said, ‘Okay!’ It’s a great opportunity to join with other families for a day camp experience,” she says.

“Families can have fun and create or just relax and enjoy,” says Kasser. “They can take advantage of all the terrific activities — performing and visual arts, swimming, sports, all in a beautiful outdoor setting.”

Paradise Farm Camps in Downingtown, PA has offered a session for single mothers and their children since 1913. “We took a break during World War II,” notes director Rick Kone. This year’s session is July 31-Aug. 5.

“We’re connecting mothers to their children,” says Kone. “They explore the wonders of the outdoors here in peace and serenity. For five days, the moms don’t have to think about
finances and expenses, just their child.”

Making Friends
Of course, families don’t spend their camp hours in isolation. They mix and mingle and make friends. “What I’ve found is that each family cluster tends to bring another family or two the following year. They build friendships,” says Lea. “Fun and friends, that’s basically what the goal is — relationship-building and environmental awareness.”

“Some families have been here for the past five years,” says Kone. “It’s a reunion for them. We limit repeats to about 30-40 percent so new families can share the experience.”

The kids have fun, the grown-ups have fun and the staff members have fun. It’s a win-win-win situation. So pack your bathing suit and brush up on your campfire song lyrics, this is your summer to be a camper again.

Cathy Ashby is a former camp director and editor of Chesapeake Family magazine.