Sleepaway camp can be a wonderful experience for children, making new friends while leaving the comforts of home to spread their wings. It is also a big business. Over six million children attend camp each summer, and of the nearly 10,000 camps in the U.S., about 60% are residential, according to The National Camp Association (NCA). Traditionally, kids have spent four or eight weeks at an overnight camp, but economic realities and lifestyle changes have forced many camps to add shorter sessions to their schedules.
“About two years ago, as a response to what families were telling us they needed, we decided to implement two week sessions,” says Dee Billia, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Appel Farm Arts Camp (www.applefarm.org) in Elmer, NJ. “It’s been a resounding success.”
The downturn in the economy forced some families to cut back on the amount of time they send their kids to camp. Four week sleepaway camps range in cost from $1,700 to $7,000, according to the NCA, while two week sessions run between $1,000 and $4,000. Beyond the economics, shorter sessions are also attractive to younger and first-time campers who may be nervous about leaving home for too long. “It’s an easy way to introduce a child to camp,” explains Billia.
Family obligations, including vacations, have also made shorter sessions popular. “From the parents’ perspective, they are trying to do more in their summer, and shorter sessions facilitate this,” suggests John Jannone, Director, Ballibay for the Fine and Performing Arts, (firstname.lastname@example.org), in Camptown, PA.
Camps have adapted their programs to make shorter sessions valuable to campers. Appel Farms specializes in the arts, from theater and dance, to recording and photography. Their two-week sessions are offered at the front end of each four-week session, and are tailored to a shorter curriculum.
Yet, not all programs can be carried out successfully in shorter sessions. Jannone points out that two weeks is too short for a completely individual-choice program, or a program that puts on full-length theater and musical theater. “But for focused art, dance, and rock programs, it is a very good length,” he says.
Shorter sessions are trend that is here to stay. “It’s an extremely positive experience,” concludes Billia. “Any time spent at camp is a great way for the children to learn and grow.”