By Paul Lonardo
When both parents are working and school lets out for the summer, many families have to consider a day camp where their kids can spend a fun, safe day filled with activities and friends. The summer day camp at the YMCA of Smithfield is the place many families around northern Rhode Island choose.
This is Shannon Sligo’s first year as program director at the Y, and he finds that most of the children at the camp are there by choice, not out of necessity. Even the ones who have to be there have nothing but great experiences and a really good time. There is plenty for them to do and their parents know that they are in good hands and will be well cared for.
The YMCA takes every precaution to ensure the wellbeing of each child. All campers are tracked at key points throughout the day, from the time they arrive until the time they leave. The YMCA uses detailed camp rosters and children are escorted by staff at all times. Parents or authorized adults picking up children must show photo identification clearing them for pick up. The Smithfield YMCA Summer Day Camp Program is a state licensed camp and abides by all state rules and regulations, including a 1:13 child to counselor ratio.
The staff is certified in Child and Adult CPR, First Aid and AED (automated external defibrillator). All certifications are through the American Red Cross and are nationally accredited. First Aid training includes administering of epi-pen injections, heat related emergencies, acting as a first responder, identifying emergencies and so much more. In addition, all Smithfield Y staff is required to attend a four hour training on Child Abuse Prevention and Detection in which they learn the five most common forms of child abuse/neglect and how to recognize signs of abuse.
Even with every security precaution in place, the Y remains very accommodating. You do not have to be a member of the YMCA to enroll, and the camp is open to children from any town.
Sligo, a former collegiate lacrosse coach for eighteen years at American International College in Springfield, MA, decided to make a career change after moving to Rhode Island and he couldn’t be happier. He likes the diversity of the programing and the wide range of activities offered at the facility.
“Our age range is from four years-old up to twelve, and there’s something for everyone,” Sligo says. “Depending on the age group there are a variety of activities for each of them.”
Having a 25 yard long, five lap swimming pool and a great aquatics program, one of the things they offer is swim lessons for the campers every Monday, as well as free swim time for two hours each afternoon.
The playground area is always popular, but throughout each day there are various stations so kids never get bored. They have an arts and science counselor who is on site to engage the kids two days a week with interesting projects which they actively participate in. There is a sports director at Deerfield Park in Smithfield where the children can go twice a week to run around to their heart’s content relay racing, playing kickball, volleyball, and other games.
“The kids really love to play a version of dodgeball called Gaga Ball,” Sligo explains. “They play in a wooden octagon called the “gaga Pit.”
On Wednesdays campers are taken on field trips to various area locations, including bowling at CW Lanes, navigating an American Ninja Warrior course at Laid Back Fitness, and visiting the playgrounds at other local schools. Every Thursday there is yoga, and on Fridays from 8:45 a.m. to noon they participate in a fundraising carwash in the side parking lot of the YMCA. Fridays is also Del’s Lemonade day.
“When the truck arrives the kids go crazy,” Sligo says. “There’s plenty to do here, that’s for sure.”
It’s a ten-week program. Campers can register week-to-week, choosing either five days or three days a week.
“We try to make it as simple and easy as possible,” Sligo says.
Breakfast, as well as snacks and drinks, are available, campers can bring their own food. Allergies are taken into consideration and the consumption of food by any child who has sensitivities is strictly monitored.
The day camp starts at 9 a.m. and goes until 3:30, but the YMCA also offers extended camps so parents who need to get into work early can drop off their child as early as 6:45 a.m. Likewise, parents can register for after-camp hours and extend pickup time until 6 p.m. Of course, parents can pick up their child at any time during the course of the day.
The attendance numbers this summer turned out to be bigger than anticipated, Sligo says. “We capped ourselves at seventy, and one week we got up to ninety children. This year we were able to accommodate more children with the addition of our new 40X60 pavilion.”
Y camps stress the importance of values such as caring, honesty, respect and responsibility, life skills such as swimming and living a balanced, healthy lifestyle. It’s too late to sign up for this summer, but next year be sure your child is not left behind. Spots fill up fast. Registration begins in early April when school is still in session. The YMCA of Smithfield also offers before and after child care for Smithfield elementary students, and are currently accepting registrations for the upcoming school year.
For more information call 401-949-2480 or contact Shannon Sligo at Shannon@ymca1.org.