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North Hills Monthly

Overnight Camps Provide Kids with Confidence, Sense of Accomplishment

Apr 30, 2018 05:00PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

Jumonville Camp

Summer is just around the corner, which means you’re probably thinking about scheduling activities for your kids. If they have not yet been to an overnight camp, perhaps this is the summer to investigate your options.

The benefits of attending an overnight camp are numerous. For one thing, children get a taste of independence and learn to problem-solve without the intervention of a parent, a skill that they will assuredly need in the years to come. 

“The greatest benefit of attending overnight camp is confidence,” said Tim Murphy, executive director of YMCA Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer, which is located on 500 acres in Fombell, PA. “Camp provides a safe place to try new things and sometimes fail. By surrounding children with friends and counselors, camp helps to teach them the grit and resiliency to try again.”

Kon-O-Kwee Spencer hosts kids between the ages of 7-15 for six weeks, though they do offer one- and two-week options. The campers stay in cabins arranged in “villages.”  

The Y is a values-based camp and incorporates four core values—honesty, caring, respect and responsibility—into all of the camp activities. 

While traditional outdoor activities are typical for most camps, there are also specialty camps, such as Forest Dancing in Punxsutawney, which is an overnight dance intensive that incorporates nature and other outdoor activities.

“We offer ballet, modern, jazz, tap and conditioning for dancers every day, followed by camp activities such as swimming, arts, dance history, canoeing and games,” said Joan E. Van Dyke, artistic director. Campers can start at age 8 and go through college age, though she said it is a great first experience for younger kids, as the camp runs for one week.

Another benefit to overnight camp is trying something new while making new friends, according to Jaye Beatty, public relations coordinator at Jumonville Camp, a Christian-based, 280-acre camp in Hopwood, PA. “Camp is a safe place to be away from home while taking the risk to explore new things and gain new insights about oneself, others and the world around us,” she said.

Jumonville offers more than 50 types of camps that focus on sports, arts or adventure, among other things, but with faith as the foundation of all activities. 

Camp Deer Creek in Indiana Township is predominantly a day camp, though they offer an overnight week each summer for ages 7-16. Activities are similar, but the overnight camp is less structured and includes a soccer tournament as well as a chance to specialize in horseback riding and swimming, said Director Wes Weitzel.

He said that many of the regular campers also attend residence week because it extends the fun.

“Especially the first time you go to sleep-away camp, there is definitely a sense of accomplishment and pride that you were able to stay away from your parents for the first time for a week; that is a major steeping stone when you go from day camp to overnight camp,” he said.

Dave Devey, owner and director of Falcon Camp in Carrollton, Ohio, echoed this sentiment. 

“The growth that takes place, the sense of confidence and self-esteem and the baby steps of independence, the ability to make decisions, the ability to grow and be creative, to be able to move outside yourself a little bit and expand some of your boundaries: those kinds of thing happen at sleep-away camp better than any place in the world,” he said.

Falcon Camp offers 2, 4, 6 and 8-week sessions, along with an introductory one-week session to help younger kids get acclimated to being away from home. Campers have a choice of activities ranging from canoeing to crafts to theater, and although there is coed time, girls and boys are separated to keep the distractions to a minimum. 

Although many overnight camp activities replicate day camp activities, such as sports, crafts, swimming, games and the like, the overall experience differs. “I think we tend to be more contemplative at night, or more open to personal conversation in the evening, looking at the stars or the cross lit up at night,” said Beatty. “Living together creates community in a different way than a daytime experience where you return home to your usual roles and relationships.”

There is no right or wrong age to begin the overnight camp journey, though Murphy said that age 9 or 10 seems to be a popular age to start. 

“These children often have experience sleeping away from home, either at a friend’s house or at a grandparent’s house. This confidence of sleeping away from their bed often helps children feel ready for overnight camp,” he said. For younger children, the Y has a half-week program, designed to ease them into the experience.

Devey sees the overnight camp experience as a unique opportunity; one that prepares a child for college and life experiences, such as getting along with others and being introduced to people who are different from you.  

“I see it as a gift for parents to give to their children, as a learning tool, and as an educational tool,” he said.

Besides the fun, camps are often a place where forever friendships are made.

“Because of the immersive experience, the friends that are made at overnight camp are like no other,” said Murphy. “There are not too many places that a best friend can be made in a week and last a lifetime.”