Matching your child with the perfect retreat

WE REALIZE that your child is the apple of your eye. You love him dearly, wouldn’t trade him for the world. On the other hand, that might not be such a bad idea – at least, temporarily. School is almost out, and summer is approaching. You’re about to be besieged by a bundle of pure unbridled energy with little or no creative outlet through which to escape. You might have decided that this is the perfect chance to really get to know your child; after all, you’ll be spending so much time together, what better opportunity to work on your relationship? But don’t delude yourself – you probably won’t be doing either one of you much good by unselfishly devoting your every waking hour to him in hopes of growing closer during the summer months. The result is more likely to be an extremely irritable child who would much rather be somewhere else and a frazzled parent with nowhere else to go.

Why not do both of you a favor and send him to summer camp? While he’s gone he can learn valuable lessons that are not taught in school-camping, hiking, horseback riding, first aid, handicrafts – while learning to coexist with his peers. And he may be gaining all this knowledge unbeknownst to him – he thinks he’s going to camp to have fun (which he should) – which makes the potential for learning all the greater.

But before beginning to research camps for your child, it would be a good idea to spend some time researching your child. What are his needs, skills and abilities? Decide in which areas of his juvenile development he is weak and in which areas he is strong. The best camp for your child is one that will reduce his weaknesses and encourage his strengths.

Once that’s done, you should have a good idea of the purposes and objectives of the ideal camp for your child. A reliable camp will furnish a parent with a list of objectives and will state the purpose of the camp’s existence. See if this meets with your personal list and if it will develop and complement the needs and abilities of your child.

Next, decide what type of camp you want. There are Scout camps, Y camps, horseback riding camps, sports camps, cheerleading camps, drill team camps and camps that stress a particular religious faith. There are camps for children with certain physical disabilities. And some camps require that children reside at the campsite, while others require that children come only for the day. Here’s where you let the child help make some of the decisions. Ask him what type of camp he would prefer. After all, he’s the one who will be going.

When choosing a camp, you should consider such things as the location of the camp, its size, the age groups and gender of the children who will be attending the camp, the activities available, the qualifications of the staff, the structural facilities, any required clothing and equipment, the availability of medical personnel, the length of the camping sessions and the cost.

The American Camping Association (ACA) can help you evaluate these items. The ACA has been applying a set of standards to its member camps to determine which ones provide a safe, healthy environment for campers since 1930. Those camps that meet the association’s standards are accredited. Camps throughout the United States and from various parts of the world have joined the ACA and have sought accreditation.

In order to achieve accreditation, a camp must be evaluated by a standards visitor who scores the camp in four areas: administration, site, personnel and program. The minimum a camp can score in any of the four areas is 75 percent; the overall score must be at least 85 percent.

A high score is required in 14 areas, including camp infirmary, clean water, sewage disposal, garbage and rubbish disposal, food service cleanliness, firearm storage, the health history of the child, camp health records, emergency transportation, waterfront personnel and the written objectives of the camp. Should a camp fail in any of these areas, its accreditation could be revoked.

The standards are adjusted to apply to different types of camps, including day camps, residence camps that include motorized travel, camps that engage in non-motorized travel and camps for the physically disabled. Accreditation is not a guarantee of excellence, but is a guarantee that the camp has been professionally examined and meets certain standards in the areas of health and safety.

Each year the ACA publishes Parents Guide to Accredited Camps, which alphabetically lists camps by state. The listing contains such information as staff, tuition, facilities, special programs and the name and address of the owner or operator. The guide also contains information to help parents choose the best camp for their child. Accredited camps in Texas include Camp Chaparral, outside of Christine; Camp Manison, near Friendswood; Camp Olympia, near Trinity; Camp Ozark and Camp Summer Life, near Houston; Echo Hill Ranch, near Medina; and Rocky River Ranch, at Wimberley.

These and other accredited camps often have activities and facilities that other camps do not. Camp Chaparral, for example, emphasizes all aspects of horsemanship, such as trail riding and rodeo events. The camp also provides riflery, drama, journalism, photography, oil painting, body building, ecology, fishing, hiking and swimming.

The staff/camper ratio at Camp Chaparral ranges from one-to-five to one-to-eight. Staff members are selected for their maturity, personality, experience and interest in young people.

Campers may attend two-week or four-week sessions at Camp Chaparral. Tuition ranges from $400 to $795 and includes housing, meals, a daily snack, laundry, instruction, all necessary materials and routine medical care.

“Camp Manison, another ACA-accred-ited camp, offers such activities as gymnastics, fencing, canoeing, golf, baton twirling, cheerleading, archery, swimming and horseback riding. Since it is located only five miles from the NASA Johnson Space Center, campers visit the facility and may also go on trips to Astroworld, the Astrodome, Burke-Baker Planetarium, Sea-Arama Marine World and the beach at Galveston. Tuition, which includes board and lodging, instruction, laundry, infirmary service, all field trips and airport transfers, is $975 per session. Each session is four weeks.

Obviously, accredited camps have excellent qualifications, but other camps in Texas may suit your child’s needs just as well, and they may suit your wallet even better.

Camp Grady Spruce, sponsored by the Young Men’s Christian Association, has three locations on Possum Kingdom Lake, near Graford, Texas. One location, Ray Bean Camp, can accommodate 96 girls, ages 9 to 12. Frontier Camp has 168 campers, both boys and girls, ages 12 to 16. The Main Camp can accommodate 75 9- to 12-year-old boys. Activities include swimming, sailing, water skiing, games and sports, horseback riding and special trips.

Sessions at Camp Grady Spruce are 11 to 15 days. Tuition ranges from $200 to $297 for YMCA members and $234 to $332 for non-members.

If your child is a Boy Scout or a Girl Scout, you may want to consider one of the many Scout camps located in Texas. The Tejas Girl Scout Council recommends Camp Rocky Point near Denison and Camp Bette Perot near Athens. The Girl Scouts and Brownies live, work and play with other girls of the same age in groups called “units.” Each unit has its own theme with activities based on that theme. Girls may sign up for a specific unit when they register. There are units available for girls in all school grades.

Girl Scout counselors are trained in leadership, craft skills, teaching methods, group dynamics and camp operations. Waterfront personnel are Red Cross certified instructors.

Sessions last for one week, 10 days, two weeks or three weeks, and tuition varies from $70 to $250, depending on the length of the camper’s visit.

Boy Scout Camp Wisdom, a day camp, is located on 280 acres on West Red Bird Lane in Dallas and can accommodate up to 12,000 campers, ages 8 to 15. Campers attend with their troop for a weekend or five-day session that costs $10. A lodge, dining hall and swimming pool are available; however, campers must provide their own tents and food. Activities are centered on qualifications necessary to achieve merit badges.

If your child is active in his church or other religious group, he may want to attend a camp that stresses his beliefs. The Lutheran Association of Southern Camping has several camp locations in Texas including Camp Chrysalis, near Kerryille; Shalom, near Georgetown; the Panhandle Camp in Palo Duro Canyon, near Happy; Lutherhill, near LaGrange; and a beach camp on Padre Island.

These camps accommodate children in grades nine through 12. Campers live in tents or in brick or A-frame cabins. Confirmation classes, leadership school and Bible studies are available, along with other camp activities. Campers attend one-week sessions; tuition is $95 for residence camps and $40 for day camps.

The Jewish Community Center, with Jeffrey Aizenberg as assistant executive director, sponsors several camps for children ages 1 to 14. Day camps include a preschool program for children ages 1 to 6, a children’s camp for campers ages 5 to 9 and a sports camp for older children. Activities vary according to the program, as do tuition costs, which range from $200 to $386. Instruction in Judaism is included with each program.

Aizenberg says the most popular program there is a three-week bus trip taken by older campers to one section of the United States. This summer, 39 campers will travel to the eastern United States spending their nights in other Jewish centers or camping out. The cost for the trip is approximately $650.

Several camps in Texas emphasize special activities. Camps for male and female cheerleaders are held in Dallas, Fort Worth, Abilene, Big Spring, Houston and Kerrville. According to Julie Cormak, conference coordinator for Southern Methodist University and director of cheerleading for SMU’s summer camp, girls come from as far away as New York to participate in the programs available in cheerleading, baton twirling and drill team. Junior high and high school girls and boys may attend all programs, and as many as 1,200 may participate in the one-week sessions. SMU contracts with Lawrence Herkimer, president and founder of the National Cheerleaders Association, to provide qualified instructors for the cheerleading camps. Duke Miller of Pres-cott, Arizona, provides baton twirling courses.

Most students attend the SMU programs with other members of their squad, but students may also enroll individually. Squad members may either live on campus or may commute. Tuition is $98.50 for those who live in the dorms and $33 for commuters.

If your child has developed a special musical talent and plays an instrument in his high school band, he may be interested in attending a band camp. McMurry College, in Abilene, offers a one-week band camp to those students selected for the Bi-state Honor Band. Students in Texas and New Mexico who are high school sophomores, juniors or seniors may audition for the honor band by taping an instrumental performance and submitting it to the band selection committee at the college.

Those students who are selected for the honor band spend a week at McMurry College rehearsing various musical numbers. At the conclusion of the week, the band goes on a tour of several major cities in Texas and New Mexico. The students consider the band camp and the tour to be an excellent musical experience equal in value to an entire year of high school band.

Membership in the band, lodging and meals are free to those selected; however, students must provide their own transportation. Other band camps are held at Sul Ross University, Texas Tech University and West Texas State University.

Perhaps your child aspires to be a John McEnroe or a Chris Evert-Lloyd. Tennis camps and clinics are offered at local country clubs and at public courts in major Texas cities. Activities may include instruction on strokes and game strategy, work with a ball machine, use of a videotape machine and tournament play. A country club tennis camp will offer all-day instruction for a period of three to five days at a price of $175 to $250. Public clubs will offer junior development clinics for two to three hours twice a week for a period of four to five weeks. The average cost for these is $40 for all sessions.

Some clubs that offer tennis programs also offer horseback riding programs. Willow Bend Polo and Hunt Club, in Piano, is one of these. Instruction is offered in English riding and includes an education in grooming, in the use and care of equestrian clothing and equipment, and in the care of the horse. Two-week sessions are available and are open to girls and boys 7 to 12 years old. Besides horseback riding and tennis, campers participate in swimming activities.

Parents of younger campers may find the summer program at a day nursery or child-care center more to their liking. Children’s World of Dallas and Fort Worth offers programs for children 18 months to 12 years. Activities include swimming, puppet shows, ceramics, dancing, field trips, gymnastics, crafts and field days. Directors of all the centers have education degrees, as do some of the counselors. Children may attend on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The cost per week ranges from $44 to $50, depending on the age of the child attending.

National Child Care Centers present a similar program; however, not all ages of children attend each center, so parents should determine which center will best accommodate their child.

Camp Kiwanis, sponsored by the YMCA, provides a day camp in Dallas on 10 acres adjacent to Bachman Lake. Boys and girls 6 to 12 years old participate with other children the same age in such activities as swimming, canoeing, nature lore, crafts and field trips. Special activities are arranged for older children. The camp is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and campers may enroll for any or all of the one-week sessions. Tuition is $38 per week and, for a small extra charge, transportation is available from the downtown area. A reduced fee is available for families requiring financial need.

If your child has a special physical need, there are camps available to accommodate him. Camp Sweeney, near Gainesville, is available for diabetic campers aged 7 to the teens. A resident camp, it provides such activities as crafts, horseback riding, swimming, basketball and tennis. Campers also receive an education in caring for their health, balancing their food plan and giving themselves insulin injections. An emphasis is placed on learning independence and on controlling their disease. Sessions are three weeks and cost $500, but a scholarship program is available.

Other camps for juvenile diabetics are the Texas Lions Camp, near Kerrville, and Rio Vista Camp, near Hunt (both sponsored by the Texas Lions); and the West Texas Rotary Camp near Lubbock (sponsored by the Southwest Rotary Club).


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