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Specialty Camps

Finding a Camp the Suits Your Child's Interests

March 01, 2009
Sometimes trying to find activities your children will show an interest in beyond the latest online game or fashion fad is like throwing a handful of half-cooked spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. It's the rare strand that has the fortitude to cling in a half-cooked state. But, if by some miracle, a single spaghetti noodle stays aloft and your child comes home and announces a head-over-heels infatuation with field hockey, model rockets, zoology, horseback riding or some other pastime you never thought would cross their lips, it becomes your task to encourage your child and nurture that interest. One great way to do that is to find a camp that specializes in the activity currently holding your child's attention.

As luck would have it, there is a camp for almost any hobby and/or potential career path — from language studies to sailing to clowning (yes, even that). With all of these options you should be able to find one with the right mix of your child's interests and the values you traditionally think of when camp comes to mind, such as leadership, self-reliance and tolerance of others.

Summer camp at the Columbia Gorge School of Theatre means a taste of the stage life and instruction by theatre professionals from around the country. At Columbia Gorge, "people ages 8 to 18 learn about theatre exclusively," said Jan James, executive director of the program. "They sing, dance, act, and perform in a show on the last day of camp." All of this happens in a natural environment where campers can unwind from the rigors of training for stardom by "hiking through the wilderness surrounding the camp; swimming in Standing Bear Pond; playing basketball, softball and volleyball."

The high intensity is similar at Avid4 Adventure, but for a vastly different reason. This is an "MTV style of summer camp," said camp director David Secunda, complete with physical challenges, excitement, and adrenaline rush. Whether campers are interested in rock-climbing, white-water rafting or a handful of other extreme sports, the Avid4 Adventure curriculum includes "state-of-the-sport" instruction, where even at five years-old, a camper learns the proper terminology and technique for safe and exhilarating enjoyment of the sport.

While it may be all about the adrenaline rush for your kids, you can rest assured, said Secunda, "Our program is centered on engaging kids in outdoor activities in a focused, non-competitive way, and also offers the tried and true activities that build leadership, camaraderie, etc," he says. The idea, he added, is for the kids to have a great time and take away with them "a deep connection and affinity for the outdoor environment."

Pali Adventures is a specialty camp of yet another variety. If your child dreams of being a stunt man, a news anchor, a movie make-up artist, or a secret agent, "the Pali environment develops confidence, self-esteem and independence through participation in some of the most thrilling and unforgettable activities on the planet," said camp director Ian Brassett.

Campers can choose from one- and two-week specialty sessions. The "activity-packed" lineup for the one-week experience "allows beginners and experienced campers alike to dive into the activities and develop solid skills," said Brassett. "The depth and breadth of the activities and instruction [in the two-week session] allows each camper to truly expand their talents, which are then showcased at the end of the session. So whether it is a concert from the Rock Star campers, a fashion show from the Fashion Institute campers or a stunt show by the Hollywood Stunt campers, each camper will have the opportunity to participate in something special."

If your children's heads are in the clouds or their feet are planted firmly on the ground behind a soccer ball they'd like to kick morning, noon, and night, there is a specialty camp that will allow them to pursue their interest while surrounded by like-minded, potential friends and expert counselors in a nurturing environment that screams "Your dreams are within your grasp."

Visit the American Camp Association's parent Web site at www.CampParents.org and click on the "Find a Camp" link for a list of camps offering the specific activity that captivates your child.


With nearly three decades of experience working with children, youth and families, Peg L. Smith is the chief executive officer of the American Camp Association® (ACA). With up to 300 health, safety, and programming standards, ACA is the only national association that accredits camps and promotes a safe and fun camp experience with developmental benefits backed by independent research. To learn more about ACA, please visit www.CampParents.org or www.ACAcamps.org. © 2009 American Camping Association, Inc.

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