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Columns

St. Charles Park District: ​Park district summer camps provide shining starts for young – and older – campers

The St. Charles Park District offers a variety of summer camps. It also has a counselor-in-training program, a unique camp experience for students entering grades seven to 10 who have a genuine interest in working with kids in a camp setting.
The St. Charles Park District offers a variety of summer camps. It also has a counselor-in-training program, a unique camp experience for students entering grades seven to 10 who have a genuine interest in working with kids in a camp setting.

The words “summer” and “camp” just seem to go together like “ice cream” and “sundae” and “T-shirt” and “shorts.” From toddlers to teens, camps offered by the St. Charles Park District can define a child’s summertime memories for years to come – and provide the earliest exposure to important leadership skills that will be invaluable throughout life.

A child’s earliest camp experience can come through the “Little Scouts” camps for children ages 3 to 5. Taking place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, these two-week camp sessions are perfect for little ones who may not be ready for a full-day camp experience, said Lynne Yuill, recreation supervisor for the Park District.

“We wanted our youngest participants to still be able to have a mini-camp experience,” Yuill said. “It’s a gentle way to get them started out as campers.”

“Little Scouts” campers will start and end their camp sessions inside a classroom at the Pottawatomie Community Center, getting acclimated and settling in for the day with simple activities such as a circle game. Once they’re fired up and ready to go, “Little Scouts” campers will spend the majority of their session outdoors, participating in group games such as Freeze Dance and other playground activities. Campers will bring a sack lunch to eat outdoors with friends, weather permitting.

“Our camps are taught by a preschool teacher who knows what that age range needs and can gear the camp curriculum to their level,” Yuill said.

Of course, little campers want to be big campers and often find their role models in the CITs who assist camp counselors with the day’s activities. CIT stands for counselor-in-training, a unique camp experience for students entering grades seven to 10 who have a genuine interest in working with kids in a camp setting.

“Many are former campers themselves who have aged out of a daily camp program, but who still want to take part in a camp experience,” Yuill said.

Just like in the work world, CITs must submit an application to the program and be interviewed for acceptance. The program looks for teens who wish to develop leadership and communications skills and are ready for that next level of responsibility before becoming a full-fledged camp counselor when they are 16 or 17.

CITs receive orientation to the camp program and counselor duties and participate in team-building and in-depth training that helps prepare them for specific situations, such as how to conduct appropriate conversations with younger children and how to relate to different campers talents and needs.

“The CITs are our real rock stars,” Yuill said. “The younger children really look up to them and can relate to them as they would big brothers or big sisters. They are invaluable assistants to our camp counselors, and the younger kids really enjoy having them around.”

CIT hopefuls start their application process in the spring before the start of summer camp. This year’s roster includes 37 teens who work with campers on everything from games to crafts.

One such area of responsibility may be escorting campers who have enrolled in the “Add a Swim Lesson” program to and from Swanson Pool. Two-week sessions of 45-minute swim lessons are held four times during the summer, enabling children who want to get swim instruction and go to camp to do both activities.

“This has been a popular added program with parents since they don’t have to make an extra trip to bring their child for swim lessons,” said Yuill, who notes a significant increase in the number of Pottawatomie campers using the service this summer.

For information about the summer camp programs and registration, call Yuill at 630-513-4326.

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