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Summer camps still popular

August 02, 2009

TRI-STATE -- Even though money might be tight, parents are managing to send their children to camp this summer, according to people involved in five of the day camps in the area.

Down to earth

Beth Bubacz Nichols, director of Adventures in Agriculture Day Camp, said that despite tough economic conditions, parents seek activities that give their children something to do.

"They can't afford to not send them anywhere," Nichols said.

Nichols had an enrollment goal of 60 for this summer's Agriculture Day Camp, held at the Washington County Agriculture Education Center from June 29 to July 3. She said she didn't reach the goal, but came close, with 57 enrollments.

Day campers have a chance to take part in hands-on activities in the areas of natural resources, food and nutrition, crops and soils, horticulture, livestock and more.

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"I want the children to realize their resources within the county," Nichols said.

She credited increased promotion for the enrollment success.

"I really tried to promote it and get the word out much better this year," Nichols said.

Nichols said she had to turn down a couple of last-minute enrollments because it was too late to make adjustments to the program.

Billie Bedregal allows her children to choose a camp each summer, and her son, Zayne, chose the Agricultural Day Camp. She said Zayne's older brother came home excited from a field trip to the Washington County Agriculture Education Center and that made Zayne want to go there, too.

"I like that we can do a lot of stuff, and go on hayrides and field trips," Zayne said.

"We make it very personalized and personalize it based in your age group," said Nichols, who noted that the camp provides children with a learning experience.

Bedregal said the children have a lot of free time and instructional time to learn about agriculture.

"It's educational, yet can be fun for the kids, as well," Bedregal said.

Playing ball

The Mid-Maryland Basketball camp enrolled more youngsters in this year's program than it did last year.

"There was a slight increase of about 10 kids this year," said Alexa Keckler, who manages enrollment for the basketball camp, a program under the Mid-Maryland Sports Camp.

The camp is under the direction of former St. Maria Goretti High School basketball coach Cokey Robertson and Keckler, volleyball coach at Gettysburg (Pa.) College.

Keckler said the camps, held at St. Maria Goretti for youngsters in grades three to 12, had 140 campers over three sessions from June 29 to July 3.

"With more kids, we have more talent, (and) we can run different types of drills and tournament formats," Keckler said.

Keckler had a theory about why enrollment didn't suffer this year.

"We have not raised our prices in four years and we are still providing the same quality service," she said.

One participant explained why he wanted to participate in the camp.

"I like playing basketball, and I want to play basketball when I get older," said Brendon Burkholder, who was enrolled in the camp along with his brother, Bray Burkholder.

"They're learning how to be young men, how to be basketball players," said Dave Warden, stepfather of Brendon and Bray.

"I enjoy it all the time," Bray said.

Keckler said she believes youngsters enjoy the camps because they are able to focus on and learn to play one sport.

"It's rewarding to see a large amount of kids interested in a sport we love to teach," Keckler said.

The camp also featured volleyball and soccer.

Taking the stage

Enrollment increased this summer for Walker Performing Arts School's summer musical production program.

The school, at 806 Frederick St. in Hagerstown, holds a number of camps over the summer, including a "Grease" production camp from July 6 to 17, for aspiring performers ages 5 to 18.

Director Teri Walker said she was not sure why the numbers increased, but expressed excitement about the summer productions in an e-mail.

"This year we are doing four camps and our main camp has over 30" youngsters, Walker said, noting that all of the other camps were full.

An aspiring 7-year-old actress, Alex Gregory, said she enrolled in the "Grease" camp because she loves acting, singing and dancing.

"I thought that while I'm dancing and singing, I could do lines, too," said Alex.

Walker credits the theater's success to the fact it is a child-centered organization.

"We make sure to have a strict enrollment in our camps so that each child has lines, solos and time to learn on stage," Walker said. "We have excellent directors and our program is a lot of fun."

Alex's mother, Stephanie Gregory, said she thinks the arts school keeps things fun and that it is good for children.

"They light up on stage. You can tell they should be there," Gregory said.

In the saddle

While some camps strive for larger enrollments, others aim for smaller groups.

The Heritage Harvest Farm Junior Horse Camp is used to smaller numbers because the instructors prefer to teach in smaller groups.

For instance, two sessions last year held a total of 20 children.

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