The middle of winter is the perfect time to plan for a summer adventure. Raleigh’s Parks and Recreation Department is registering children for its summer camps with themes from drama and dance to sports and surfing to those geared toward tiny pirates and princesses.
“One of the great things is the diversity of what we offer,” said Seth Yearout, adventure program manager. “That includes adventure camps that are high-energy and high-octane.”
The adventure offerings include mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking and even a surf camp that begins in the water in Raleigh and ends the week with a trip to the beach and the opportunity to catch some real waves.
“But if your thing is that it’s hot outside and there are bugs, there is still something for you,” Yearout said. “There’s also digi-camp where campers work on digital media and photography in a computer lab.”
Raleigh’s summer camps are held at 36 locations around the city and are designed to make the summer stand out against the rest of the year.
“School is very structured, so camp should be a place where you can let loose a little bit and use your outside voice when you’re outside,” Yearout said.
Eliana Johnson of Northwest Raleigh took part in a mountain biking camp last summer that was based at Umstead State Park. Mark Johnson, her dad, describes it as a good physical challenge that increased his then 13-year-old daughter’s biking ability.
“She really enjoyed the fact that they took the time to help them with really technical things,” Johnson said. “She was telling me they spent a lot of time practicing jumps and techniques on the bike to get around roots and rocks. Those skills are building blocks for them.”
Johnson and his daughter both liked the overnight outing that was a part of her mountain biking camp.
“Overnight brings in some other factors that are unique,” Johnson said. “It’s independence and leadership and being confident to do something that is different and not just go home every night.”
Yearout agrees that summer camps help build valuable life skills.
“Camp is different things at different ages,” Yearout said. “At the teen level, it’s helping them become independent, functioning adults and treating them as such. We have a lot of really good opportunities for teenagers. Just because someone hit middle school or high school doesn’t mean they are too cool for camp.”
Variety of camps
The summer camps aren’t all about athletic skills, either. There are offerings for children from ages of 3 to 17 that take place indoors as well as outdoors. It’s also not necessary to already be proficient in an activity to attend camp. Yearout said each weekly session builds skills from Monday through Friday.
Camp Friendly, which meets the needs of campers with disabilities, is held at Durant Nature Park and Powell Drive Park.
Summer camp is a rite of passage for many children, whether it involves digging for dinosaurs or learning survival skills.
“Camp is memorable in the fact that you do memorable things and meet new people and you have these shared experiences with one another,” Yearout said. “I think it’s like a hallmark kind of experience.”