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More Than Lanyards | With summer camps catering to nearly every interest, entertaining and educating the kids is a whole lot easier. Here are options for a smoother camp season. | By Lisa Fernandez, Carrie Kirby, Carolyn Jones, and Candace Murphy

Camps have changed—a lot. From Girl Scouts 2.0 and modern family camps to sports-team-sponsored programs and coding-crazed sessions, camps come in all types. What are your kids going to be doing this summer? Sorting out the details of multiple summer camps can be a real hassle, but The Monthly has advice for streamlining this camp season. From tips on picking camps, quelling parental worries, and compelling options, The Monthly explores opportunities for keeping the kids occupied, entertained, and educated for the summer.




If you went to Girl Scout camp, you probably made a lanyard, went swimming, and sang songs around the campfire. Today the Girl Scouts of Northern California still offer those activities at their summer camps, but interspersed are new options integrating technology, extreme adventures, and other innovations. Think robotics, documentary making, high-ropes courses, and TV-style cook-offs.

"Girls' interests over the years have expanded," says Sari Van Otegham, who runs GS NorCal's outdoor programs, including the three sleepaway camps the council runs. "We want to be able to provide activities that are going to make the girls want to come to camp. It's not so much about just the activities that they do at camp; it's about the life skills that they learn at camp, which is really the foundation of why we do it all."

For the first time this year, girls can participate in a Mini Maker Faire, with the advent of Camp Makehers at Fairfax's Bothin camp. Participants will make toys or games and design light-up fashion accessories. The camp catalog promises that older girls will get to use both soldering irons and Arduino boards, which are microcontroller-based kits for building digital devices.

At the end of the session, "they will combine all the skills of the week to make something that will make being outdoors better, more fun, easier," says Jennifer Diaz, Girl Scouts of Northern California's program coordinator for STEM/Environment.

Jen Levine, a Sunnyvale Girl Scout leader, is sending her rising third-grader to Makehers, even though it's more expensive than other sessions. "I was looking for something different in the catalog, and inventing stuff is one of the things that she really does enjoy," Levine says.

Also at Bothin are the Movie Makers session, where campers create a short documentary, and the Bothin Theatre Company, where they can produce a musical.

At Skylark Ranch, near Santa Cruz, the expected horseback riding and archery are augmented by the Summer Sleuths session, where girls solve a case and then visit the Mystery Spot. At Sugar Pine, in Calaveras County in the Sierra Nevada foothills, girls in the Extreme Cuisine! session are given a mystery basket of ingredients to cook with each day, while those who sign up for Spa Sugar Pine get to soak in Grover Hot Springs and make natural face masks and aromatherapy candles.

One of Juliette Gordon Low's primary goals in founding the Girl Scouts back in 1912 was to get girls involved in physical outdoor activities; those early adventures were tame pursuits such as hikes and cooking over an open fire. In the 21st century, Girl Scout camps nationwide have been ratcheting up the intensity, Van Otegham says.

"Some of our girls will go caving or on extended road trips throughout the Sierras, or whitewater rafting," she says. "There's a higher level of adventure that happens for girls when they're up there. That's a very popular draw."

When younger girls see older girls participating in the outdoor survival program known as Gilligan's Island, they want to be part of it, Van Otegham says.

That's just what happened with Levine's older daughter, Beatrice, 10, who during two summers at Skylark has watched the "Gillies" parade into camp covered in mud from their mud hike. "I have also been told that they get to sleep out in the wild, in beds that they made by themselves, like tree beds," Beatrice says. She's very excited that she's finally old enough to be a "Gilly Girl" herself.

California Girl Scouts also get to do things that less locationally advantaged girls wouldn't, like surfing, sailing, and sea kayaking (Skylark), stand-up paddleboarding in Tomales Bay (Bothin), and ziplining through Sierra National Forest (Sugar Pine).

Because they are supplemented by cookie revenue, Girl Scout camps are among the most affordable sleepaway camps, with three-night camps starting at $385 and financial aid available to qualifying families. And your daughter doesn't have to be in a Girl Scout troop to attend— you can register for Girl Scouts when you sign up.

But why let girls have all the fun? Each camp also offers a family camp session, where adults and siblings can join the girls. Provided meals, lodging, and staff-led activities make for a stress-free family getaway. Bothin's family camp is for females only, but Sugar Pine and Skylark welcome dads and even annoying little brothers. Camp registration opened Feb. 1. www.CampRocks.org.

—Carrie Kirby


It's no secret that today's summer camps are highly specialized to reflect the personality of its campers. There's the all-baseball camp for the little baller. Ceramics camp for the little artist. Crafty camp for the high-energy little non-jock.

The latest to enter the fray? Coding camp. Coding—the trendy term for computer programming—is all the rage in the Bay Area and the Mandarin class of this generation.

"We believe this is an important component to giving every child access to foundational 21st-century skill," says Roxanne Emadi of www.Code.org, a Seattle-based nonprofit that helps schools host a nationwide Night of Code program that introduces kids as young as kindergarteners to coding. "And it's not just coding, but computer science, meaning students foster logic, problem solving, creativity, and learn broader topics such as how the Internet works . . . It's critical to expose students to these skills."

In truth, coding probably wouldn't be so popular with parents and kids if gaming didn't have such a stranglehold on day-to-day living. With gaming apps available on smartphones and tablets often acting as babysitters, Minecraft and the like are as popular today as Beanie Babies were previously. But Beanie Babies proved to be a waste of time and money. Coding won't be.

"At a time when computer science offers a path to some of the best career opportunities across any industry, diversity in the field is severely lacking," says Emadi. "By giving kids the chance to learn the basics early . . . they get a chance to try it for themselves and build on their skills before stereotypes set it, or before they think it's too hard for them."

And the best way to lure those kids in is with games. Brian Skinner, a Stanford graduate and former Cardinal volleyball player, founded Breakout Mentors, an organization that offers in-home summer camps for small groups in the Berkeley and North Oakland area. Skinner thinks the best time to introduce kids to coding is in that sweet spot between 8 and 14 years of age.

"For us, making games is the focus, but it depends on age, and how much coding they've done before," says Skinner.

Still, when parents look for suitable camps for kids, Skinner warns against making a camp search too Minecraft-focused. "A lot of the Minecraft stuff is fun, but not necessarily the best way to learn code," says Skinner. "You want kids to be excited, yes, and a lot of camps rely on that. But sometimes in those camps, you're not creating and mastering concepts. You're copying and tinkering. There's a place for that in learning to code . . . but you want to make sure they continue to have fun but really continue to learn to code."

Most reputable camps and programs start simply, not with a specific language, but with kids completing defined steps to reach a defined goal. www.Code.org kickstarts learning in exactly this way, using Angry Birds animated characters and having the coders figure out how to arrange commands to move, say, the pig, in a certain way on a grid.

Other camps and classes start with Scratch programming, a block-based, drag-and-drop programming language developed at MIT in which hundreds of available blocks represent programming commands. The blocks can be combined in an unlimited number of ways to create unlimited game apps. For more advanced coders, the landscape is limitless. Most graduate to traditional programming languages like Python, Java, and more.

And forget the stereotype of a programming camp being so geeky and nerdy that its campers, forced to stay inside in front of computer screen so long, emerge at week's end with a pasty, sun-deprived complexion. No, most daylong camps—Camp EdMo, iD Tech Camps, Alexa Café—also have "regular" camper activities that don't involve a monitor or mouse.

Still, the landscape is not completely mine-free, because this whole coding experience might be an adventure parents will have to keep investing in for awhile.

"One mistake parents make is that going to a weeklong summer camp every year is going to be enough," says Skinner. "But the camps may not necessarily line up and build off each other. It's important to keep pursuing it."


Coding Camps

Alexa Cafe at UC Berkeley: all girls; ages 10-12 and 13-15; day and overnight camp options; price range $950-$1,600 per weeklong session, www.AlexaCafe.com.

Breakout Mentors: in-home weeklong sessions in Berkeley and North Oakland; coed; ages 8-14; price range varies, www.BreakoutMentors.com.

Camp EdMo: Berkeley, Alameda, and Oakland campuses; coed; grades 5-8; price range $450-$530 per weeklong session, www.CampEdMo.org.

Digital Media Academy at St. Mary's College, Moraga: coed; ages 12-17; price range $400-$945 per weeklong session, www.DigitalMediaAcademy.org.

iD Tech Camps at UC Berkeley: coed; ages 7-12 and 13-17; day and overnight camp options; price range $900-$1,500 per weeklong session, www.iDTech.com.

iD Tech Camps at St. Mary's College, Moraga: coed; ages 7-12 and 13-17; day and overnight camp options; price range $900-$1,500 per weeklong session, www.iDTech.com.

—Candace Murphy


For some parents, the goal of the summer camp is quite simple: Wear. The Kids. OUT. Look no farther, then, than the sports camp.

Sports camps abound. But what's special about the Bay Area is the number of professional franchises in the area that offer youth sports camps as an extension of their brand. The best run in the area, and certainly the most organized, bear the logos of the San Francisco Giants, the Golden State Warriors, and the San Francisco 49ers. Also represented in the camp experience are the San Jose Earthquakes and the Oakland Raiders. All fill up early, so this recommendation applies to the most organized, and most earliest organized.

It's a nice perk to be affiliated with a classy sports franchise. Because not only can the camps cobble together top-notch instruction and lesson plans, they also often have at their disposal coaches, current players, and former players affiliated with the organization who drop by and add to the summer experience.

Last year, a few parents reported being jealous that their kids got to tour AT&T Park and meet and take a picture with Buster Posey or J.T. Snow or George Kontos—or whoever was available whichever particular week, as part of the Giants summer camp.

"He met my all-time favorite, Rich Aurelia," says Heather Allen, wistfully recalling her son Tate's summer camp experience last August in the North Bay. "I wanted to tag along!"

But these camps are for the kids, and the respectable camps available all take great pains to ensure that their instructors not only know their sports, but also have some sort of teaching and youth education experience. While this may not be an actual teaching credential though, often, it is, and it does mean that the coaches, counselors, instructors, or whatever the camp calls them, have a history educating kids and know the dynamics that come with the situation.

"We don't call them coaches. We hire professional educators," says Kevin Hoover, the founder of San Francisco Giants Baseball Camps, which launched in 2014. "Our target employee is a young teacher. We attract the 23-, 24-, 25-year-old teacher that has some baseball background. For the kids aged 4, 5, and 6, we care more about having experienced teachers, but for the older kids, we often have someone who is coaching at the high school level and up. But we super-prioritize the ability to engage young kids. If you can't engage a really young kid, you can't teach him to run the bases."

The San Francisco 49ers, which host two camps each summer at its facility in Santa Clara, seek camp instructors with youth instruction in their backgrounds, and the 49ers camp also draws on the famous faces coming in and out of headquarters.

"I coached eight years of high school football, and lot of our curriculum comes from my background," says Jared Muela, head of the 49ers youth football camps. Muela coached at Soquel High School near Capitola, as well as Washington and Irvington high schools in Fremont.

"We also have some close participation with coaching staff and players," says Muela. "They come out and run sessions and jump in and give coaching points. We'll have 10 to 15 players come through during camps usually."

Warriors Youth Basketball also hosts several camp sessions, 10 of which are in the East Bay. And like the 49ers', the Warriors' curriculum is designed by a coaching staff made up of high school and college coaches and players. The program also schedules clinics for kids year-round.

Jeff Addiego, the senior director of Warriors youth basketball, describes the program as "geared toward skill development and a positive team atmosphere for boys and girls, aged 7 to 15, of all skill levels and abilities."

Given the Golden State Warriors style of play—an unselfish brand of basketball—it's a logical conclusion that Addiego's emphasis on a positive team atmosphere has roots in what has happened in Oracle Arena over the past couple of years.

To that end, both the Giants and the Warriors camps have been operating at capacity lately. With the Warriors winning the 2015 NBA Championship, camps will sell out, as they did last summer when the organization hosted 25 camps in 21 different Bay Area cities. And with the Giants three World Series wins in 2010, 2012, and 2014, not to mention that this is currently another "even year" as Giants fans like to say—it's a sure bet that camps will be popular.

"The first summer we ran 12 sessions, and this summer we'll run 29," says Hoover, with the Giants. "It's grown like wildfire. Of course, winning every other year helps."


Pro Sports Camps

Golden State Warriors (www.NBA.com/Warriors/Community/BasketballCamps); coed ages 7-15; summer pricing not yet announced.

San Francisco 49ers (www.49ers.com/Community/Youth-Football/Youth-Football-Camp.html); co-ed; two-day camp ages 6-9 ($165); three-day camp ages 10-14 ($249).

San Francisco Giants (www.SFGiantsCamps.com); coed ages 5-12, $589 per weeklong session.

—Candace Murphy


For parents, the word "vacation" is open to interpretation. Traveling with kids can be more exhausting, more expensive, and more harrowing than life at home, often requiring another vacation just to recover. Just ask anyone who's been to Disneyland with toddlers.

But there is a solution, a getaway that's relaxing and fun for everyone involved, from tempestuous 2-year-olds to social teenagers to sedate grandparents: family camp. Family camps offer activities for all ages, or—for those who just want to read crime novels all week—the luxury of no activity at all. There are dozens of family camps just a few hours' drive from the East Bay, in beautiful settings, and most reasonably priced.

Of all the public, private, and religious family camps in Northern California, all have basically the same amenities: rustic tents or cabins along a picturesque creek or lake, crafts and recreational activities such as archery or nature walks led by college-age camp counselors, and evening events such as campfires, sing-alongs, and talent shows.

Oh, and the best part of all: They cook for you. Most family camps provide three meals a day in a communal dining hall. For parents, there are no words to express the joy of seeing your children eat hot dogs . . . prepared by someone else.

"Most families don't even eat dinner together any more. So this is a really nice way for families to share a meal, unplug from technology, and spend time together," said Laura Bryan, director of Camp Concord, a camp near South Lake Tahoe that's owned by the city of Concord. "We tell people it's the best kind of all-inclusive vacation."

Another bonus of family camps is that parents can actually relax. With kids enjoying organized activities throughout the day, parents can read, hike, socialize, nap, or just stare at the trees.

Family camps are also a great opportunity to socialize, without worrying about who's cleaning the dishes later. Some families bring multiple generations, or old friends, or half their neighborhoods. It's not unusual to see large extended tribes or makeshift family reunions, many who have been gathering at the same camp for decades.

And, of course, making new friends is a highlight for kids as well as grown-ups. People tend to be in a good mood when they're on vacation, and it's easy to find compatriots.

"The best part of family camp is the people," said Matthai Chakko, spokesman for the city of Berkeley, which has run Echo Lake Camp near South Lake Tahoe since 1922. "And that starts with the staff. A lot of them have grown up at the camp, and they know the traditions, the families, the spirit of the place."

Here are a few of the most popular family camps based in the East Bay:

Oakland Feather River Camp. Located along the Spanish Creek outside of Quincy, Feather River Camp has been providing relaxing vacations, square dancing, and tie-dye workshops for Bay Area families since 1924. These days it's also known as a mountain bike mecca. The U.S. Forest Service and Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship are working to open 60 miles of new single-track trails directly out of camp. Costs $55-$96 per person per night. Discount for Oakland residents. www.FeatherRiverCamp.com.

Echo Lake Family Camp. Berkeley's popular camp just off Highway 50 is perfect for hikers. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the camp, and Desolation Wilderness is a short canoe ride across Echo Lake. Parents can spend hours enjoying the solitude and beauty of the High Sierra while their kids do supervised activities back at the camp. Berkeley's other camp, Tuolumne Family Camp near Yosemite, burned in the 2013 Rim Fire. The city is planning to rebuild it, but in the meantime is encouraging families to attend Echo Lake. Costs $48-$105 per person per night. Discount for Berkeley residents. www.Ci.Berkeley.Ca.us/EchoLakeCamp.

Lair of the Bear. UC Berkeley's family camp near Strawberry is not just for Cal grads. Anyone can enjoy the scent of the sugar pines and beautiful Pinecrest Lake; you just need to join the Cal Alumni Association. Founded in 1948, Lair of the Bear is now one of the largest family camps in the United States, with 9,000 campers annually spread over three camps: Blue, Gold, and Oski. "Kids grow up here, then work here on staff, then someday bring their own kids. It's a great tradition for a lot of families," said Cathy Connelly, Lair director. "Most people have some sort of Cal connection, there's definitely a blue-and-gold vibe, but we get families from all over the world."

Evening events include lectures by Cal professors, anda bonus is the Vista Lodge: a quiet hilltop retreat with Peet's coffee, The New York Times, and very few children. Costs $377-$795 per person per week (averages to $54-$113 per day). Cal Alumni Association membership ranges from $30 (one-year membership for recent grads) to $750 (lifetime membership). www.Alumni.Berkeley.edu/Lair.

Camp Concord. Small and cozy, Camp Concord attracts families from throughout the East Bay to its picturesque spread near Fallen Leaf Lake off Highway 89. Camp Concord has several amenities lacking at the other camps: ceiling fans in the cabins, breakfast served on the beach, and, best of all, a weekly shuttle to the casinos. Kids stay back at the camp for movies while the grown-ups have Friday "date night" in Stateline. Where would you rather be—around the campfire singing "Oh, Susanna," or playing roulette at Harrah's? Costs $33-$99 per night per person. Discount for Concord residents. www.CityOfConcord.org.

Camp Ravencliff, Camp Arroyo, Camp Loma Mar. The YMCA of the East Bay doesn't just offer terrific sleepaway camps for kids; their parents are invited along, too. Capture the flag, campfires, swimming, and all the usual camp activities are offered. Ravencliff is amid the redwoods, on the Eel River in southern Humboldt County; Arroyo is in the golden hills near Livermore; and Loma Mar is in the Santa Cruz Mountains along Pescadero Creek. Most family camps are weekends only. Sliding scale. www.YMCAEastBay.org.

Camp It Up. The oldest family camp in the United States for gay and lesbian families, Camp It Up draws families from around the country (but mostly from the Bay Area). Diverse and welcoming, the camp is a favorite for kids, who get to meet other kids from similar nontraditional families and enjoy a week of music, horseback riding, swimming, arts, and camaraderie. And roasted marshmallows. The camp is held at Oakland's Feather River Camp the first week of August and for a long weekend in February. Costs $70-$118 per person per night. Sliding scale. www.CampItUp.org.

—Carolyn Jones


You want to be a free-range parent and send your kid off for a week, or a month, to sleepaway camp. You really do. But those helicopter tendencies are starting to kick in. And the anxieties are starting now, months before the bug spray hits the shelves: Who is going to cut my kids' fingernails for two weeks? Who will make sure my picky eater will get enough protein, stay away from allergens, put on suntan lotion?

And there's always this lingering worry: What if my son or daughter gets homesick and begs for me to pick him or her up?

Sure, summer camp is a time for fun and adventure. But many parents, especially parents of first-time sleepaway campers, can also become nearly paralyzed with fears. This may be the first time parents and children are separated for a long period. And the camp counselors are just teens themselves.

But don't fret. There are ways to address these issues, and one of the suggestions involves picking up the phone to simply make contact with the camp.

Talk to the Director: "Call the director," said Camp Tawonga Associate Executive Director Jamie Simon. "We welcome those calls. We love building those relationships. Camp should be a family experience."

Camp Tawonga is a Jewish camp just outside Yosemite National Park and offers one-week to four-week sleepaway sessions. It draws a large swath of campers from the East Bay. Simon said parents shouldn't be afraid of sounding too neurotic. She has even visited campers homes before camp starts to help allay fears.

Stay Connected: Of course, there's always old-fashioned snail-mail letter writing. Camp professionals advise parents to send their children letters a week before they head off to camp so there's a love note waiting for them in their bunk. Then, regularly write your children throughout their stay. It's a good idea to send your camper with several pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes to send mail home, so you can ensure you'll hear from your 10-year-old while he or she is away, camp veterans suggest. Some camps also allow parents a one-way email system to write their child in a letter that will be printed off and placed on their child's bed. Many camps also regularly post photos and videos of campers on blogs and Facebook so that parents can "see" their kids at camp and live vicariously as their youngsters are off canoeing and doing skits. This method also allows parents to see their children's smiling faces, while also giving them their independence.

Embrace Your Discomfort: You just might be sad while your child is away. But absence makes the heart grow fonder. The distance in a relationship can also enhance it when your child comes home. Best advice from some veteran parents of campers? Take a day trip over the weekend with your spouse to rekindle your adult relationship.

About Homesickness: Most camps don't allow campers to make or receive phone calls. And visits during short camp stays are usually not allowed. That's not because camp directors are mean and controlling. That's simply to allow the camper to enjoy his or her own summer experience as an independent youngster. A study cited by the American Camp Association found that 96 percent of the boys and girls who spent two weeks or more at an overnight camp reported at least one day of feeling homesick. Camp experts say a touch of homesickness is normal.

The camp association urges parents to tell their children they do not plan to "rescue" them if they are feeling a little sad. But in rare cases, camp directors may call parents to say that the homesickness has gone beyond normal limits and the parents should come pick up their child. At many camps, the directors look at what's going on during a case-by-case basis to decide what's best. The staff will usually always call a parent with an over-the-phone status update on the camper, even if the parents can't talk to their children directly one-on-one.

"It's really quite rare," Simon said, of sending a child home.

At Camp Tawonga, the camp has stopped using the word "homesick," and replaced it with "missing home." "Missing home doesn't mean you're sick," Simon said. "It's really normal to miss home. But it's usually the parents who miss their kids more."

Tips for Sleepaway First-Timer: View camp as an opportunity for children to explore worlds bigger than their own neighborhood, and embrace "letting go." Engage your child in decisions about camp, such as which to attend and what to pack. Find friends who may want to go with them. Talk about your concerns, encourage your children to talk about their feelings, and communicate confidence in their ability to handle being away from home. Have realistic expectations. Explain to your child that not every moment will be happy. Make clear that you do not intend to "rescue" him or her from camp, but do not force a child to stay if he or she finds the experience unbearable after time for adjustment. Visit the camp, and build a friendly relationship with the director. For more good tips, check www.SummerCampHandbook.com.

—Lisa Fernandez


Camp is a time of kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, cooking s'mores, and lathering on the suntan lotion and bug spray. Pretty soon the kids will be off enjoying all those outdoor activities. There's no question that camp is a great experience for youngsters, both to instill a love of nature and a sense of independent spirit.

If only they weren't so expensive. Some sleepaway camps cost more than $1,000 a week. If you send your kids away for eight weeks, that's $8,000 per kid. Good day camps cost about half that. For those who can afford it, the activities are most often worth it. Sleeping under the stars, tie-dying T-shirts, singing songs, raiding cabins—all with great friends—what could be better?

For those who can't afford the steep camp prices, there are workarounds: Namely, scholarships. Or more accurately, "camperships." Many camps offer them, and the experts say you shouldn't be shy about applying. Camp Winnarainbow, a popular circus and performing arts camp headquartered in Berkeley and held Laytonville, offers a "Grace and Joy Scholarship" tab prominently on its website. The counselors and staff never know which kids are on scholarship; a select board of directors that does the choosing knows. Some boards are grateful that campers ask for assistance and are happy to help out for such a good cause. YMCA camps and religious camps most often offer scholarships. Both sleepaway and day camps offer them, too.

The Regional Parks Foundation funds $250,000 in camperships annually to about 4,000 campers, according to the East Bay Regional Park District. Of that, $130,000 goes toward Park'n It Day Camp, and $120,000 goes to Camp Arroyo, an outdoor education program in Livermore for East Bay school kids and kids with terminal illnesses.

"Outdoor adventures are really important," said Juliana Schirmer, development director for the parks foundation. "And we understand that there are more demands on parents to pay for food and housing. Camp can seem like a luxury. But we want everyone to have access to the parks."

Before signing up for a camp, check the camp's website for the campership information and make sure to fill out the forms by the deadline, usually in early March. If you can't find the information you need, call the camp office to inquire.

For recipients, camp directors advise writing a nice thank-you letter to the board after your children come back from camp, including pictures of your kids having fun. Better yet, have the kids write their own letter of thanks. Schirmer said that those thank-you notes are really helpful during fundraising, so that the executive team can use those personal stories to raise more money.

And while income is usually the largest factor in determining who gets financial help, Schirmer said writing a nice letter of support to obtain the funding is also a plus. "We're looking for a compelling reason," she said, reminding parents that they shouldn't feel embarrassed about asking.

A lesser-known—yet often successful way—to pay for camp that's cropped up in the last few years is camp crowdfunding. GoFundMe and IndieGogo pages have sprouted up across the country, where individuals or groups ask friends and strangers to donate small bits to help send them on their outdoor journeys. Camp Inc., an entrepreneurial camp in Colorado, encourages campers to crowdsource for money, and also pitch business owners for help in sending them off for a summer adventure.

—Lisa Fernandez


Spend It Outdoors

Thousands of East Bay kids will be spending their summers in the great outdoors through the East Bay Regional Park District's summer programs for kids and teenagers.

Kids ages 5 to 12 can enroll in Park'n It Day Camp for a week of fishing, hiking, swimming, sports, and learning about ecology. The camps are held at five of the district's most popular parks: Contra Loma in Antioch, Temescal in Oakland, Don Castro in Hayward, Miller/Knox in Richmond, and Ardenwood in Fremont. Families can pick the location closest to them. Camps begin June 13 and end the week of Aug. 1. Hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. No after-care is available. The cost is $200 a week and scholarships are available through the Regional Parks Foundation.

The park district has plenty of options for teenagers as well. Young people ages 13 to 17 can sign up to be "leaders in training" at Park'n It Day Camp, working with other teens to help supervise campers, lead games and help run the camp. This is a great opportunity to get work experience and job training under the supervision of the professional staff. The fee for leaders-in-training is $50.

Another popular option is the junior lifeguard program. Teens between the ages of 12½ and 15 years old can work for two weeks as junior lifeguards, developing communication, teamwork and leadership skills, and having a lot of fun. Those interested must submit an application by May 1. Contact ARoth@EBParks.org for an application packet.

For more information about any of these camp programs, go to www.EBParks.org or call 888-327-2757, option 2.

 

 

Top to bottom: Lair of the Bear near Strawberry is UC Berkeley's family camp. Families like Camp Concord, not far from Fallen Leaf Lake, for its coziness. Digital Media Academy is one of many camps for wannabe coders. Camp Winnarainbow is a circus and performing arts camp.Camp Tawonga is a Jewish summer camp on the Tuolumne River near Yosemite. Camp Concord is popular for amenities like ceiling fans, beach breakfasts, and a shutte to casinos for grown-ups. All photos courtesy of the respective camps.