girl wearing climbing gear and helmet outside, grassy background

Emily gained confidence at camp last summer which led to a better school year, says her mom. 

Registration is officially open for Summer Camp at the YMCA and spots are quickly filling up. Jen Gordon registered her now 6-year-old daughter, Emily, at YMCA Camp Cristina last summer.

“They made my first time 5-year-old old camper feel comfortable and stay active during her two weeks at Day Camp. She got to experience a variety of camp activities and make new friends,” she says, which wasn’t always the case at school.

“She had previously had some trouble with other kids making fun of her and had told me how much she liked camp because no one gave her problems about the way she looked,” Jen says. “As a parent, but more importantly, as a person who went through similar problems as a child, I couldn’t have been happier to hear that.”

Camping, like many Y programs, is about learning skills, developing character and making friends. But few environments are as special as camp, where kids become a community as they learn both how to be more independent and how to contribute to a group as they engage in physical, social and educational activities.

“Emily had such a better school year,” Jen says. “Her behavior problems — which I believe was a combo of maturity, confidence and the bullying issues — greatly improved. We saw huge academic progress. She gained so much confidence at camp, being able to interact in a group, follow directions and participate in ‘cool’ things. Her favorites were the zip line and canoeing in the lake.”

Camping teaches self-reliance, a love for nature and the outdoors and the development of attitudes and practices that build character and leadership — all amidst the fun of campfires, canoeing, archery, talent shows and meaningful relationships. Y counselors are dedicated to making sure camp is an amazing experience for every camper.

“I am so proud of my daughter for learning to be daring on her own and I know that camp helped build her confidence and self-esteem this year,” says Jen, an essential care worker. She says she and her husband have no safety concerns.

“I was not worried last year, in fact quite grateful the Y still held camp, because I originally had her signed up for (another) camp, but they canceled. Emily was so upset, as was I, so we were so thankful for the Y keeping facilities open for summer camp,” shares Jen. “It was Emily’s first camp experience and I’m so happy it was a great experience for her. I am not any more concerned this year as far as COVID is concerned. Our kids desperately need these important social interactions way more than they need to be afraid.”

Like last summer, the Y plans on keeping the extra safety precautions in place, which camp leaders and counselors have been trained on, following the recommendations from the American Camp Association, Centers for Disease and Control Prevention and other medical professionals.

“Emily is most definitely returning this summer! She can’t wait and her little brother is excited to be able to join her this year,” says Jen.

YMCA Summer Camp staff are experienced and ready for a safe, fun-filled summer adventure. Parents can register at Ys across Hillsborough and East Pasco counties.