Nelson Bagnardi, executive director of YMCA Camp Letts in Edgewater, Md., says enrollment for summer 2009 is about the same as it was a year ago. Camp Letts is a relatively inexpensive camp option, with day camp fees about $230 a week and overnight camp about $695 a week.
However, Mr. Bagnardi says he has seen a change in the length of time children will spend at camp.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of children signing up,” he said. “But a decrease in the amount of time they will be spending here. They might sign up for two weeks instead of four.”
“Overall, I think there is a spike in the number of children going to camp,” Mr. Bagnardi says. “People are realizing the value of giving kids an experience away from home and away from electronics.”
Still, where there may have been a waiting list in flush times, there is now flexibility. Maria Bonaquist, an Oakton, Va., mother of two, put off sending in the deposit to hold a spot for her 13-year-old son to return to a 10-day overnight camp in Pennsylvania.
“I was planning on sending it eventually,” she says. “But I was also prepared for them to tell me ‘we’re filled.’”
Instead, the camp director called Mrs. Bonaquist, inquiring about her son and assuring her it was OK to send the deposit and pay the balance whenever she got around to it.
The ACA’s Ms. Smith says that is a sign of the times. Camps will fill up in 2009, but it might take more work on the part of camp directors to make it happen and more research on the part of parents to find the best fit at a fair price. There has been a shift in that more parents are looking for camp options closer to home or choosing day programs instead of pricier sleepaway camps.
“We’ve seen more directors going to camp fairs and information sessions,” Ms. Smith says. “We’ve started seeing parents being more discriminate and deliberate in their decisions. We’ve seen a shift — people are not just consuming an activity, they are considering ‘Is this a good investment?’ It is always a good investment when you can send your children somewhere and they can learn independence and getting along with others.”
Karen Goldberg Goff has been a reporter at The Washington Times since 1992. She currently writes feature-length stories on a variety of topics, including family issues, pop culture, health, food and technology. Follow Karen on Twitter.
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