Irish Day Camp means summer fun for kids

Long summer hours spent hypnotized by the television are no more for the 45 Maple Lake Elementary students involved in Irish Day Camp. The fourth annual Irish Day Camp gives campers the opportunity to explore and broaden their interests while developing and strengthening friendships. The camp, which serves kindergarten through sixth grade students, is sponsored by Youth Connections.

Irish Day Camp is a three-hour program that takes place twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the City Park. The camp is made possible by high school students who volunteer to be Summer Buddies. “It is rewarding to be a Summer Buddy,” said Stephanie Harvey.

“We mentor the younger kids. It is nice to see the kids often. You can tell they appreciate you being here.”

The Irish Day Camp programming consists of a wide variety of activities. “We do many activities, trying to give the kids different ideas of what they can do in the summer while sparking their interest,” said Angie Olson, an adult counselor.

Students participate in activities which range from physical fitness to science experiments and arts and crafts. “We have large group activities where the kids play games like dodge ball or kick ball,” said Katie Zabel. “But we also have small group time where we do arts and crafts and play board games.”

Activities are planned around the week’s theme. For example, Culture Week has the campers planning a trip to Pioneer Park in Annandale. The activities aim to teach campers about the theme in ways they rarely experience in a classroom environment.   The kids enjoy their time spent at day camp.

“I like playing dodge ball,” said sixth grader Dominic Lawler. “Day camp is fun because a lot of my friends are here.”  Second grader Kelly Loch seconded Lawler’s comments. “I like playing with my friends,” she said. “I’ve met some new kids here this summer.”

The camp does have its challenges. “It is hard to find activities that kindergarten through sixth grade can do together,” said Olson. “We have to look at things that are not too challenging for younger campers but still entertaining to the older ones.”

Although there are a few challenges, Irish Day Camp is a success for all involved. “The most important and rewarding thing about working at day camp is seeing the kids succeed,” said Zabel.