I was talking with a friend this week.  She’s a good mom.  Her kids have swimming, dance, and soccer lessons.  She attends PTA meetings.  She bakes cupcakes with the girls.  So I asked her, “Where are you sending your kids this summer for camp?”

It was an innocent question – small talk – but my friend was defensive.  She said she didn’t have time to “do all the research” and she had no idea where to start . . . and then she realized she was talking to “her-friend-the-camp-director” and was a little sheepish.  Of course I would have been happy to steer her three kids into one of my YMCA camping programs, but not every camp is right for every kid.  I know that.  It’s a conversation for my friend and her children, and that conversation requires a little work.  The truth is, in the hunt for a summer camp for your children this summer, there is both good news and bad news.

The bad news:  You do need to do a little research.

The good news:  It’s fun research!

I will point out some great camp resources, ones that I trust, but you will still need to do a little shopping with your would-be campers at your side.  A significant portion of this work can be done from the comfort of your living room in front of a computer.  I will share three sites with you today, but know that there is much more out there.

 My Summer Camps.com  (http://www.mysummercamps.com)

This is an incredible resource and a great first step for any family.  It is also overwhelming.  There are more than 35,000 camp listings in 18 different categories.  The nice thing about this site is that you can search by state or by category (i.e. traditional, academic, all girls, all boys, equestrian, etc.).  You can visit camp websites directly, watch camp videos, and get a good feel for what programs are available.

But understand this site charges camps for “membership.”  A camp listed for free appears as a “basic member” with little more than contact information.  The “Gold” membership package can be purchased for $849 a year and allows camps to include photos, videos, logos, and much more.  A minimal listing does not mean the program is a minimal program.  It just means they have chosen to use their marketing dollars elsewhere.  In the interest of disclosure my camps, Camp Conrad Weiser and Bynden Wood Day Camp, are both listed there.

Find YMCA Camps  (http://www.ymca.net/find_ymca_camps)   

I am a YMCA guy.  I have had the privilege of working with 6 YMCA resident camps during the last 20 years.  I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this resource.  When you visit this page, you can search for resident camps by state or by name.  Like the Scouts, YMCAs have been running camps for a long time – 125 year as a matter of fact.  There is a lot of experience in these organizations.

American Camp Association  (http://find.acacamps.org/finding_a_camp.php)

The American Camp Association (ACA) is the industry standard.  They accredit both day and resident camps, and have a complete listing of their accredited programs.  Like the other sites listed, you can search by state or camp name.  On the ACA’s “advanced search,” you can focus your efforts by cost, activities, targeted focus, cultural focus, special needs, and much more.

These three sites will get you started on your summer adventure.  Once you have found a program that matches your needs and the interests of your child, call or visit the camp.  Ask them extensive questions.  Remember, a session at camp makes memories that last a lifetime – ensure that they are good ones!

We’ll see you at Camp!

Nathan

Be sure to visit Nathan’s camp, The South Mountain YMCA Camps, at www.smymca.org.

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