Children participate in games last summer at Whitehall Camp, a 300-acre facility north of Emlenton.
Whether it's for one day or a traditional weeklong getaway, there are plenty of options for young campers this summer. “There's a camp for everybody,” said Michael Chauveau, executive director of the American Camp Association in Pennsylvania and Delaware, a nonprofit organization that represents 180 summer camps across the region. “The camp with crafts and hiking and canoeing, they still exist. The traditional camp is still strong and vibrant across the states,” said Chauveau. “But there are many, many options available to boys and girls. Camps run the spectrum from the traditional to the uniquely focused, whether its on bicycling or computers. We had one camp last year that was a circus camp,” he said. That diversity is reflected in the experiences available in Butler County. “We have a lake, a beach and lake equipment. We do teach canoes, swimming, fishing, archery and team sports: volleyball, soccer, basketball,” said Don Barger, director of Whitehall Camp, a 300-acre facility three miles north of Emlenton owned by the Church of God in Anderson, Ind. Barger said the camp sees about 800 children and another 150 adult campers in a season that runs from June 9 to Aug. 11. Slippery Rock University will run 44 camps on its campus this summer beginning at the end of May and running through the middle of August, said Lisa Weinzetl, director of conference services for the university. “Some of the camps are internal ones, meaning they are run by SRU coaches, like soccer, volleyball, track, cross country and pole vaulting. The music department is running a jazz camp this year,” Weinzetl said. “Others are external,” she added. “This would be an external company, say you could have a basketball camp and bring it to the campus.” The length varies. “Most last three or four days, and when we get band camps and football, they are longer. They are about a week,” Weinzetl said. Butler County Community College will offer its Kids on Campus program, a series of day camps running June 17 to Aug. 1 for children in kindergarten through 12th grade. The camps run Monday through Thursday and cover such subjects as science, painting and drawing, cooking and robotics. This is the 15th year for the program, said Eva Lowerre, Kids on Campus coordinator. The Butler County YMCA's Camp Keystone day camp starts June 10 and runs through Aug. 23 from 6:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, said Sam Morrow, school age and day camp coordinator for the YMCA. Campers range in age from kindergarten to sixth grade. Day camp starts at the Y and campers are then bused to Alameda Park. “We spend the majority of the day outdoors and swim in the afternoon at Alameda pool,” Morrow said. In the morning, campers rotate between games, environmental science and character development. “We break into three groups, and they get to experience every one each day. Every week we go on weekly field trips to the (Carnegie) Science Center or Skate Castle,” Morrow said. “When it rains, the campers stay at the Y and use the pool and the gym,” he added. “Last year we averaged a hundred campers a week. We have a 14 to 1 ratio, so there are 12 counselors and staff in attendance.” “It's nice because children get to interact with other individuals from different school districts across the county,” said Morrow. “We're always looking for feedback from parents. It's in a good state where we can make tweaks without reinventing the wheel,” he added. The Butler County Parks and Recreation Department runs its own day camp, Camp Alameda, at the park between June 10 and Aug. 19, said David Hutner, aquatic/program director for the department. Camp Alameda runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for 5 to 12-year-olds, he said. Camp sessions last a week, Hutner said, and each week has a different theme, such as CSI Alameda or Animal Adventures. Succop Conservancy, 185 Airport Road, also offers day camps for children in kindergarten through sixth grade, said Elizabeth Rivera, director of programs for the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. The camps specialize in birds and wilderness skills she said. Wilderness skills are also an offering at Camp Lutherlyn in Prospect, said Deb Roberts, the assistant director of the 680-acre camp owned by the Northwestern and Southeastern Pa. Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. “About half of our campers come from Lutheran churches and the other half come from everywhere else,” said Roberts. “But most of the campers are Christian. It is a Christian summer camp. There is worship, Bible study and devotions. “The majority of programs are one week, and a few for our younger kids are just one day or a half week,” said Roberts, adding Lutherlyn will see 1,000 campers in a season that runs June 16 through Aug. 2. Lutherlyn has horseback riding, hiking canoeing, archery, crafts and musical theater. But first, counselors have to wean incoming campers from their electronic devices. iPods and smart phones have seemingly replaced poison ivy and sunburn as the biggest threats to the experience. There's a ban on such gadgets at Lutherlyn. “There's definitely more dependency on technology,” Roberts said. “But once they get into the swing of things, they appreciate not having their cellphones and just living in the moment with their cabin groups.” Betty Angelini, executive director of Crestfield Camp and Conference Center in Slippery Rock Township, said Crestfield has a similar ban. “They have grown more attached to their iPads and electronic devices,” Angelini said. “Every year it gets harder for them to not be attached to those. But once we get through that, it is usually a great week.” The 226-acre camp is owned by the Pittsburgh Presbytery and is used as a conference center outside the camping season which runs June 16 through Aug. 3. “We have seven weeks of summer camp,” she said. “It typically runs from Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock until Friday evening at 7,” she said. “We have swimming, archery, low ropes and high ropes, a challenge experience, and we have canoeing. We have mission activities on site and off site. It's community service. They work at different food pantries, different venues,” said Angelini.