Camp Pratt may have a new owner, but the Frank P. Phillips YMCA in Columbus will still host a day camp for children this summer — it’ll just be downtown instead of 25 miles away.
Earlier this year, the YMCA sold Camp Pratt, the 70-acre recreational facility in Lowndes County which it had owned since the 1930s and which had been the setting over the last decade or so for summer day camp for 6- to 12-year-old children.
“I’ve had a lot of parents say, ‘Oh, y’all sold Camp Pratt, so I guess no summer camp?'” said Youth Program Services Director Jeremy Fears. “… I want to get out information as soon as I can: Yeah, we are doing summer camp. We’re just doing it at the Y.”
Or at least, some of it will be. Fears has plans to take campers ages 5-13 to and from the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, the Riverwalk and the soccer fields, between activities at the downtown YMCA.
Other than canoing and archery, activities campers enjoyed at Camp Pratt, children enrolled in camp will do the same type of activities they’ve done every year, such as sports, swimming and arts and crafts, Fears said.
Membership and Marketing Director Cynthia Mutch said the YMCA facilities in New Hope and Caledonia already hosted small summer camps last year — Caledonia, in fact, has had one several years — which provided a framework for how the downtown summer camp will work. She added other YMCAs around the country have summer day camps at their campuses, rather than at traditional summer camps.
“We’re not having to invent the wheel, ” she said.
Camp begins May 21 and goes 10 full weeks through the summer. Fears said, depending on how many children were enrolled at the end of the summer, the YMCA may extend camp another week.
Two of the weeks in summer camp — one in June and one in July — will be field trip weeks for campers, where the YMCA will take 50 children and chaperons to museums and other attractions throughout the week.
“It’s such a popular week, I thought, ‘Why not do two?'” Fears said. “So we’re going to experiment this year for the first time doing two field trip weeks.”
Once parents begin signing their children up for field trip days, Fears said, he’ll make plans to go to the McWane Science Center and the Birmingham Zoo, both in Birmingham, Alabama; the Children’s Hands-On Museum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo; and the House of Bounce Family Entertainment Center in Saltillo, among other activities. Fears specified some activities would be during the June week and others in the July week.
At least one of the field trip weeks will include a tour of Mississippi State University, which Fears said summer campers have taken before.
“You’ll get to see parts of the football field that no one ever really gets to see,” Fears said. “The press boxes. You get to go into the players’ locker rooms, stuff like that.”
While the settings might be different, Fears and Mutch said the benefits of camp for children are the same whether they’re at Camp Pratt or the YMCA — they’re still making new friends and having new experiences at a place where their parents know they are safe.
“There’s a benefit for the kids in that they’re active and making friends and getting out, being around people,” Mutch said. “Being around other authority besides their teacher at school or their parents is valuable. Plus they learn some new things up here too and have some new experiences.
“It’s also good for the parents,” she added. “… Just because their kids are out of school doesn’t mean that the parents are off work, and they need to be able to leave their children somewhere safe.So there’s a huge benefit for the parents in knowing their kids are being taken care of and they’re active.”
While registration opens for parents next week, Mutch said parents can continue registering their children up until the week before whatever week they wish to enroll their children in camp. Enrollment is at the YMCA downtown. Members pay $95 for a full week and $115 for non-members. Field trip weeks are $125 for Y members and $145 for non-members. Prices vary for shortened weeks.
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