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The Holiday Gift of Summer Camp

What gift comes in all sizes, lasts long after the occasion and needs no batteries? This holiday season — and for birthdays, graduations and other milestones — consider giving a child the gift of summer camp.

“Camp is a great gift because it is a gift of memories and experiences. Children may not remember who gave them what toy, but they will always remember that Grandma gave them the gift of camp and all the experiences that went along with it,” says Laura Kelly, owner of The Handwork Studio, a kids’ needle arts and fashion studio that offers half- and full-day camp programs in Narberth, PA.

“We regularly have aunts, uncles and grandparents purchase camp programs for their relatives,” says Earl J. New, director of Cherokee Day Camp in Bensalem, PA. “Gift-giving relatives often purchase partial-plan certificates, such as $500 towards a camp program, to help send a child to camp.”

Wrapping a Gift Certificate

courtesy of The Handwork StudioMany camps will create a gift certificate upon request. Here are ideas to wrap up a gift of camp at the holidays or any time of year.

• Wrap the gift certificate with camp logo items like a T-shirt, or stuff the certificate and other treats in a camp duffel or backpack. Kendra Brooks, director of camping and recreation for Easter Seals Southeastern Pennsylvania offers free water bottles with the camp logo, or camp T-shirts and backpacks for a nominal fee.

• Ask if the camp has a free DVD showing its facility and activities to include with the gift certificate. Watching the DVD a few times before the summer will get children familiar with the camp and build excitement about the programs and new friends they will meet.

• Add a box of graham crackers, a big chocolate bar, and a bag of marshmallows for s’mores now—and a tasty preview of summer treats to come!

Package the gift certificate with small items the child may need or want at camp, like a flashlight, canteen, or sleeping bag, to create instant fun.

Why It’s a Good Gift

courtesy of Cherokee Day Camp“Having the ability to provide children with a fun gift that they will remember for the rest of their lives is a powerful thing. Similar to paying for one’s education, camp is a gift that keeps on giving. The gift of camp gives back so many wonderful life skills,” says Andrew Yankowitz, owner/director of Tall Pines Day Camp in Williamstown, NJ.

“Summer camp is a great gift for children with disabilities because it provides a unique opportunity for a child to participate in exciting activities that they might otherwise never have the chance to experience,” adds Ford C. Waggoner, director of marketing for Easter Seals Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which offers residential camp programs for children with general disabilities and autism ages 6 and up at its Camp Fairlee Manor. For a searchable directory of camps for kids with special needs, visit www.metrokids.com/sk-camps

Camp Association Certificates

Mickey Black, owner-director of coed Pine Forest Camp in the Poconos, Camp Timber Tops for Girls and Lake Owego Camp for Boys, offers gift certificates for all of his programs and accepts the new American Camp Association Keystone Camp Gift Certificate. This program offered by ACA’s regional office allows people to buy gift certificates for participating camps at www.acakeystone.org.

“We created this program to help family and friends give a child a camp experience, even when they don’t know which camp the child might attend,” says Michael Chauveau, executive director of the ACA’s Keystone Section. “The gift certificate might cover a whole session or a partial session, depending on how much the giver wishes to spend, but it makes it easy to give a meaningful gift that has lifelong benefits.”

If you’re considering a specific camp for your child, ask if it offers gift certificates or will accept an ACA Keystone certificate. For example, Easter Seals Southeastern Pennsylvania does not have its own certificate, but will accept the ACA’s certificate for its day, overnight and Job Corps camps for ages 5-21, while Easter Seals Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore accepts only its own certificates for its Camp Fairlee Manor.

Ask About Discounts

courtesy of The Handwork StudioA gift of camp can range from less than $100 to thousands of dollars, depending on the program and the length of the camp session. “Because many camps offer early registration discounts, buying a gift certificate in the off-season before tuition rates go up often allows gift-givers to get a better rate on a camp session,” says New. “Remember to also ask about discounts for siblings and referring friends.”

He adds, “Many parents will spend a lot on toys to ensure that their child has a happy holiday season, but they may not place as much emphasis on a child’s summer experience, which lasts much longer. Wonderful camp memories will stay with a child long after the toys are broken and forgotten.”
“Camp instills confidence and independence like no other experience out there, and what better gift is there than that?” says Black.

Ellen Warren is a Program Associate for ACA Keystone Section, serving camps and camp families in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

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