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Campus Rec’s summer camp brings youthful energy to Athens Campus (PHOTOS)

Nothing says summer fun for America’s youth like camp – time spent swimming, playing games, crafting works of art, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones.

For the past five years, the staff and student employees at Ohio University’s Department of Campus Recreation have strived to provide lifelong memories to youth in the Athens area through the CAMPus REC Summer Day Camp.

Designed to provide an environment where learning and fun go hand in hand, the camp operates on principles consistent with the department’s philosophy – to promote the physical, emotional and social growth of individuals by encouraging the development of lifelong skills and positive attitudes through recreational activities.

“We really like to advertise the CAMPus REC Summer Day Camp as a rec camp,” explained Jessica Orlowski, Campus Rec’s assistant director for club sports and summer camp. “It’s not a sports camp. It’s not an arts and crafts camp. We try to do a lot of different activities … so that all the campers are encouraged to try new things.”

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Cameron, center, plays basketball with his friend Jay at Ohio University’s Aquatic Center during the CAMPus REC Summer Day Camp.

The camp, open to children ages 6 to 12, offers five one-week sessions throughout the summer with its last session of the summer concluding this Friday. Camp is held from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with the Charles J. Ping Student Recreation Center serving as the camp’s headquarters and camp activities held throughout the Ping Center as well as at other facilities throughout the Athens Campus.

According to Orlowski, in addition to providing area youth with a fun and educational experience, the goals of the camp are to provide an outlet for Ohio University faculty and staff as well as community members who have children and to showcase OHIO’s Department of Campus Recreation and its facilities. In fact, the biggest changes to occur in the program over the past five years are the number of children enrolled and the increased use of facilities throughout the campus.

“Size is definitely the biggest way that this camp has changed,” Orlowski said, “but we’ve also learned to utilize spaces on campus better.”

While last year’s program limited the number of campers to 30 per session, this year the program accepted 50 campers per session – with every session filled. Children enrolled in the camp are grouped according to age and participate in a number of activities at various locations throughout campus.

“We’ve always gone to the Aquatic Center and utilized Outdoor Pursuits’ climbing wall in the Ping Center,” Orlwoski explained, “but we also use the tennis courts, go to South Beach and sometimes head over to Emeriti Park for snack time. … We’ve even been over to the new Walter Fieldhouse. This is truly a collaborative effort for Campus Rec, involving employees from all of these facilities as well our business office and marketing department.”

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Ten-year-old Arden makes her way up the climbing wall at the Ping Recreation Center during the CAMPus REC Summer Day Camp.

During the program, campers participate in arts and crafts, team-building and icebreaker activities, sports-like games and scavenger hunts.

“We’ve also tried to work in some fitness classes, which is cool,” Orlowski said. “We’ve had some Tae Kwon Do, and we tried yoga – once. It was short-lived, but it was nice.”

According to Orlowski, Campus Rec takes much of its camp activities from the SPARK curriculum. SPARK is a research-based, public health organization dedicated to promoting lifelong wellness and improving the health of children.

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Counselor Sara Prater plays with the campers during swim time at the Aquatic Center.

Two of the camp’s most-popular activities – swimming at the Aquatic Center and using Outdoor Pursuits’ climbing wall located in the Ping Center – occur regularly. Campers visit the Aquatic Center three times per week and climbing wall twice per week.

“I think the pool and the climbing wall are the highlights for the campers,” said Orlowski. “But I also think they really love the counselors.”

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Campers play Uno and draw with counselor Sarah Andrews outside of the Ping Recreation Center.

Campus Rec employs 12 OHIO students as counselors for the camp, with two of the students serving as the camp’s health and safety counselors. This year’s health and safety counselors – Aubrey Goetz and Ben Justice – are returning counselors. In their roles, they serve as counselor leaders and have undergone additional training and certifications.

“I grew up my entire life attending camps,” Justice, a fifth-year senior majoring in social studies education, said when asked why he applied for the counselor position. “I was a Boy Scout and an Eagle Scout, and now I’m preparing for a career in education. I enjoy molding the minds of today’s youth and being active, and I had a lot of fun at this camp last year. While doing my student teaching this year, I even ran into some of my former campers.”

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Sam plays soccer at the Ping Recreation Center during the CAMPus REC Summer Day Camp.

Erin Noonan, an OHIO junior majoring in anthropology, said she applied to be a counselor with Campus Rec because she’s served as a counselor with other camps in the past and enjoys working with children in this age group.

“My favorite part of this experience is forming friendships with the kids,” she said. “You never know how much you impact them, but I have fond memories of the camp counselors I had growing up.”

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Cameron and Jay play basketball at the Aquatic Center with friends during the CAMPus REC Summer Day Camp.

Registration for the CAMPus REC Summer Day Camp is held at the beginning of March. For more information, visit http://www.ohio.edu/recreation/camp/index.cfm.

What do the campers think about CAMPus REC Summer Day Camp?

We asked some of the campers at this year’s CAMPus REC Summer Day Camp what they enjoyed most about the camp. Here is what they had to say:

“I like going swimming. We play ‘Sharks and Minnows’ (a tag game). And the counselors are real nice, especially her (pointing to counselor Maggie Harris, a senior studying early childhood education).”

Chase, 7, who is attending the camp for a second year

“I like to go swimming. I did a pencil drop into the pool, and I actually touched the bottom of the pool! I also like playing soccer and kickball.”

Jake, 9, who attended the camp two weeks this year

“I like going to the Aquatic Center and playing basketball and matball (like kickball but using mats as the bases). I tried the climbing wall, but it was really hard. I’ve made friends, and I’ve been telling my older sister about camp so maybe she can come next year.”

Sophie, 8, who is attending the camp for the first time

“I like this camp. I like playing dodgeball, playing soccer, swimming, and doing the climbing wall, even though I’m not very good at it, but I have gotten a little better. I’ve made friends that I wouldn’t have met, and I try to get my friends from school to come to this camp.”

Ben, 11, who is attending his fourth year at the camp

“I like the climbing wall.”

Siyoung, 11, who is attending his third year at the camp

“I like being with friends and the counselors because they’re fun.”

Kyle, 10, who attended the camp two weeks this year

“I like the climbing wall the best, and I set the time record for the camp for climbing the one side of the wall the fastest. One minute and 56 seconds – about three seconds faster than the old record. I also really like the counselors. They’re really fun and energetic, and they show you how to do stuff.”

Arden, 10, who is attending the camp for a second year

Memorable moments from this year’s camp

We asked some of the employees at the camp about their memorable moments from this year’s activities. Here is what they had to say:

“Every Monday when we have a new group of campers – some of them are returning and some of them are new to the program. So I do a little spiel about how I’m the boss lady and how we hand-picked these wonderful counselors, and we talk about how we manage behavior. We call it 1-2-3 magic … and I tell them if you get to three, you have to come talk to me, the boss lady. One of the kids who had been here before says, ‘How is that punishment because you’re nice!’”

Jessica Orlowski, Campus Rec’s assistant director for club sports and summer camp

“Face-painting. I had two to three girls painting my entire arms while laughing and having fun. I had flowers, sunshines and butterflies all up and down my arms.”

Counselor Erin Noonan, junior majoring in anthropology

“It’s a real feel-good moment at the end of each week when some of the campers will bring you a goodbye letter or a thank-you letter. I have those on display at my home, and it just makes me feel good.”

Health and safety counselor Ben Justice, fifth-year senior studying social studies education