The sound of children’s laughter filled the air near the Seasons of Columbus, located along 11th Avenue South, in Columbus.
About 80 children, all participants of the Fred P. Phillips YMCA summer camps, celebrated Camp Fun Day, which marked the end of 10 weeks of activities.
Camp ended July 23 for about 20 children participating in camp at Seasons of Columbus, part of the Columbus Housing Authority. It ended Friday for the 60 children at the Caledonia and Columbus YMCAs, according to Salem Gibson, program director at the YMCA.
During Camp Fun Day, the youths were divided into teams named after the colored silicone bracelets they wore. Each team rotated through stations at the former site of the Palmer Home for Children. Activities included a sprinkler, water slide, tractor-trailer full of video games, arts and crafts and face painting. Also during Camp Fun Day, campers were treated with lunch from Chick-fil-A.
“It’s been a blast,” said Gibson of camp.
Michael Walker, Columbus Fire and Rescue public relations and education officer, manned a sprinkler set up under some trees. The tall cascade of water cooled children down as they ran through it. Some took advantage of the large mud puddle the sprinkler created nearby, running and jumping to see how big they could splash.
Walker said he taught at the Seasons of Columbus camp for about six weeks. He and other fire and rescue officers taught life safety classes at each location. During classes, children learned about water safety, fire safety and took a tour of the fire station.
“We talked about what it’s like for a fireman to go do a search and rescue,” he said of one session. “We blindfolded them and had them go search through the room for a little Teddy bear.”
Helping with the YMCA camps allows the fire department to do its part in helping children have fun and learn.
Kimberly Lashley served as a camp counselor at the downtown YMCA for the first time this summer. During the school year, she works as a teacher’s assistant. She said she enjoys working with children.
She said she thought the campers got a good learning experience from the 10-week camp.
“We did a nature trip. We went to the library, and we went to the movies,” Lashley said. “So, they got a great learning experience.”
She enjoys doing arts and crafts and said she found teaching kids how to do them among her most memorable experiences of camp. During camp, the children would work in groups on a project while Lashley explained it to them and showed how it would be put together.
This year’s summer camp exceeded the YMCA’s expectations, said Jimmy Woodruff, YMCA executive director.
“Last year, we were in the middle of COVID during the summer months,” he said. “Our camps were really impacted negatively in areas like the number of children who would come. This year has been the total opposite. All three of our camps — we have one downtown, one at Caledonia, and then we’re doing one here at the Palmer home campus — are packed. I mean, they were full and waiting list. And so that’s great.”
The kids have also had a great time and plenty of activities led by counselors and camp directors to keep them busy, Woodruff said.
“We’ve got some terrific counselors and camp directors, and I can’t speak enough about that,” he said. “They’re super. They’re engaging with the kids. They’re passionate about what they’re doing with these kids to teach them and build relationships.”
Camp offers parents who work an opportunity to ensure their children are in a safe environment while they work, Gibson said.
Each location participates in a different set of activities based on their location. For example, the downtown YMCA camp visited the soccer complex. Friendly City Books, the downtown book store, helped out and read with the kids, Gibson said.
They’ve also had the police department visit and someone donated their time to teach Spanish lessons.
Gibson noted that the city of Columbus stepped up to help YMCA summer camp.
“We’ve had so many people who aren’t even affiliated with companies or particular groups that have given their time,” he said. “We have had just huge help and in a huge way…. The city, especially downtown Columbus, Caledonia and Lowndes County have stepped up and really rose to the occasion to help these kids have a good summer.”