Recession Pinch Hits Summer Camps

There may be more family time this summer as summer camps begin to feel the pinch of the recession. Bonuses that used to pay the high camp fees are disappearing and as they do so are the funds for weeks away for the kids.
Camps are still enrolling children, but they are doing later enrollments than usual this year says a Wall Street Journal article. Peg Smith of the American Camp Association said that the 2,900 camps in their membership are expecting more demand for financial aid.

Some families are opting for less expensive versions of camp; day-camps. These tend to be run by nonprofits like the YMCA.

At the numbers are clear. There has already been a drop of 10% to 15% less registrations for private summer camps this year. Nonprofit camps are seeing a rise in registrations.

The Kansas City Star reports that it is clear that while parents are still looking to send their children to camp this year they are budget shopping.

“They want to make sure their kids aren’t sitting home all day playing video games this summer,” said Pam Watkins, director of operations for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, which offers camp sessions all summer.

“Parents are absolutely going to cut back on summer vacations and weekend excursions, but as far as camp for their kids, it’s the one thing they’re willing to put the money out there for.”

Families may wait until later in the season to register their children hoping for deals that other years would not be available.

That may be a wise gamble. If the camps can’t fill their bunks they will have to be more flexible to survive.

Some camps are offering shorter seasons at their regular day cost. In the past The Aloha Beach Camp, a water-sports camp in Los Angeles, required a stay of at least 12 days at $107 per day. Last year they lowered the minimum to 5 days. This year if all a family can afford is two days they can get a two day spot.

Other camps are offering ‘early bird specials’ with discounts. That is what Berkshire Hills Emanuel Camps in Copake, N.Y. did this year for families signing up last summer. Instead of the $6,500 per child the cost in March was $6,100 for a full summer session.

Many camps offer ‘camperships’ for children who qualify for financial aid.

The UJA-Federation of New York will give $1,250 for kids attending a Jewish sleep away camp for the first time and $750 for the second time.

Not all camps can afford to offer funding. The River City Youth Foundation, an Austin, Texas, nonprofit, had funding cuts this year. The city says the camp should be spared but it is still dicey for the kids who could be attending a free summer day camp. If the funding doesn’t come through than low-income, at-risk children in Austin will not have the camping experience.

The National Camp Association and can help you do an online search for the camp that fits your families needs.

Some families have decided to have a family vacation this year instead of camp. With high session costs it is just more practical.

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