Camps are busy this summer
FINGER LAKES--One of the highlights for many area children each summer includes the opportunity to go to summer camp. Along with the variety of crafts and waterfront activities, kids have the opportunity to see their friends and make new ones from outside the area. With several camps in the area, there are many summertime experiences awaiting the region's children.
The Hidden Valley 4-H Camp in the Watkins Glen State Park is in its 70th year of operation and has 535 campers signed up for the summer. Camp Director Jennifer Sweet said they have 40 acres at their camp and are allowed to use the trails in the state park for hiking. Some of the activities they offer include canoeing, cooking, hiking, drama and dance classes. Sweet said they also have a gardening class and are currently trying out 15 varieties of potatoes for Cornell University.
"We are special because we are a 4-H camp," Sweet said. "We have our children engaged in experiential learning." She mentioned this includes learning about things like life skills, community and friendship through hands-on activities.
Sweet said some of the difficulties associated with running the six-week program include dealing with bad weather and occasional homesickness from campers. She said they also sometimes have to deal with campers who did not get into the activity they wanted and convince them to have fun in the activity they are placed in. Sweet added they have 42 staff members on hand, with 60 to 70 percent of them attending the camp at some point in their childhood.
Camp Gorton on Waneta Lake brings between 550 and 600 Boy Scouts to the area every summer. In operation for more than 90 years, the camp has more than 300 acres at its disposal for activities.
Camp Director Karl Ziegenfus highlighted their waterfront program, with campers able to canoe, kayak, sail, fish, drive motor boats and work on merit badges for each respective activity. He said they also teach traditional scouting classes as well, such as orienteering, cooking and camping. Along with skill-based archery, rifle and shotgun shooting courses, he said scouts can learn life skills through interacting with fellow scouts as well as through their communications courses.
Ziegenfus added things generally run smoothly at the camp once it gets going, adding a high percentage of their 55 staff members had attended the camp in their youth. He mentioned one family has been attending the camp for three generations. Ziegenfus said they are always looking for more scouts as well as staff and are looking for ways to improve their promotion beyond the surrounding area.
The YMCA Camp Cory is located in Penn Yan along the eastern branch of Keuka Lake, offering both overnight camping as well as day camp services. Camp Director Pat Foster noted each summer more than 1,000 different campers visit the 30-acre location with some 82 staff who aid the campers in their activities.
"Some of the unique activities we offer include all the stuff on the waterfront," Foster said. "We really take advantage of having so much lakefront property, so we do canoeing, kayaking, we have a really big sailing program, we have stand up paddle boarding, water skiing and log rolling."
Foster said some of the difficulties involved in running the camp every summer include helping campers become more independent, as some parents have wanted to become more and more involved over the years. He mentioned his role is to be a liaison to parents to make sure they have all the information they need while fostering that independence in his campers. Foster noted they have to prepare for campers by hiring a good staff, as it helps reduce issues throughout the eight weeks of operation. He added many of the camp's staff had attended Camp Cory when they were kids.
"I was a camper here when I was 10 years old," Foster said. "I went from 10 to when I was 17 and got hired as a counsellor."
Camp Good Days in Branchport has been in operation for 36 years on the western branch of Keuka Lake. Camp Good Days provides camping programs for children suffering from cancer and sickle cell anemia, as well as children who have a parent or sibling with cancer. Executive Director Wendy Mervis said there are almost 80 campers attending this year, with the camp being free of charge due to fundraising conducted throughout the year.
"Our beach activities are probably the most popular," Mervis said. "We have the slide on the waterfront, trampoline, boat rides, swimming and fishing. At night we do pool parties, campfires, we did a dance last night."
Mervis mentioned the camp also offers activities like arts, crafts, woodworking and archery. She said the 13-acre camp has some 90 staff and volunteers who work with the children. They run a 10-day program for the kids, some of whom have come from outside the United States.
"With this particular program, because we have kids from other countries, sometimes there is a language barrier," Mervis said. "Overall we get through that quite well with their chaperones they bring who can speak some English. The medical care [is also a challenge] because we have to sometimes draw blood, we have to do transfusions. It's just the care of the kids medically to make sure the ones who are in treatment are really cared for."