The Atlanta Constitution
May 10, 2003

Some Spots Still Open For Summer Camp

Summer camp. A time of fresh air, sunshine and outdoor fun.

Or perhaps a time for computer screens, software and machine language.

It's your choice. In fact, summer camp choices for metro Atlanta seem limitless, including everything from Civil War history to karate.

If you're a procrastinator, there is good news.

Registration lists at most sleep-away camps are usually filled up by this time of year, but the slow economy has produced more vacancies than usual, especially in the early and late weeks of summer. A number of day camps still have openings, as well.

The venerable Athens Y Camp, which has been sending city kids to Tallulah Falls since 1898, still has spots available in some one-week and two-week sessions, though the program is about 75 percent full, according to executive director Edward Schaefer.

About 2,000 boys and girls will enjoy North Georgia mountain air courtesy of the camp, most of them from Atlanta but also from 16 states and three foreign countries.

If you're looking for a berth in a cabin at any of the other 7,000 sleep-away camps in the United States, "the good news is it's absolutely not too late," said Jeff Solomon, executive director of the National Camp Association.

"This year with the economy and the war, it slowed things up as far as camp enrollment is concerned."

About 6.2 million kids went to some kind of camp last year, said Solomon.

Once a luxury, camp is now a necessity for working families seeking some kind of daytime activity for their children.

"Day care is tough to find, baby sitters are tough to find, and mom can't watch the kids because mom's working," he said.

Camp Fire U.S.A has three day camps at three Atlanta locations -- Stone Mountain, Avondale and Roswell -- and a few spots are available at each, according to spokeswoman Marian Long.

The camps will be in session throughout the summer, and many parents subscribe for multiple weeks.

"A lot of them use it as day care," Long said.

While many residential camps are nearing sold-out status, Atlanta parents will have a good chance of lining up spots at one of the hundreds of day camps available throughout the metro area.

Most YMCAs at 22 metro locations host day camps, which entertained 9,974 children last year, said spokeswoman Kristen Obaranec.

Offerings include traditional camp activities and specialties such as horseback riding and adventure camps. (The metro Y-sponsored sleepover camps in North Georgia and elsewhere have been full since September, Obaranec said.)

Many city-bound children depend on day programs at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, which will see more than 7,500 kids come through from June until August, said Tami Teppo, director of marketing, adding that there is room in many of those day camps.

In sprawling Atlanta, there are at least 30 parks and recreation agencies, said Tom Martin, executive director of the Georgia Recreation and Park Association.

Together, these county and municipal organizations host hundreds of summer camp programs.

In Gwinnett County, for example, children can concentrate on cheerleading, soccer, gymnastics, archaeology or art at one of the 150 day camps the county convenes each summer.

Some of the camps cost as little as $45 a week, according to coordinator Mariann Brown. Parents should contact parks and recreation agencies in their area.

And for those fans of the great indoors who have no interest in woodcraft or wallet-making, there are still a few openings at the National Computer Camp, which will meet for three sessions in June and July at Oglethorpe University.

It's a full-body immersion in silicon culture, where kids learn how to surf the Net and write their own computer games, said founder Mike Zabinski.

"For these kids, this is the closest thing to heaven," said Zabinski. "They can stay away from the sun for a couple of weeks, learn a lot, be happy, and then go back into the sun."


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