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St. Louis region home to some 8,500 camp opportunities helping kids make the most of summertime

Joining Wednesday’s show for a conversation about the many summer programming options for children in Missouri and Illinois were (from left) Allie Cicotte, Mary Rogers and Vicki Lang.
St. Louis Public Radio and Camp Little Giant

Summer camp is a tradition that stretches across generations and geographies – and these days, all sorts of interests, too. From cooking to cybersecurity, there’s a camp option for everybody.

That’s according to Allie Cicotte, senior programs manager for Blueprint4SummerSTL, a web app designed to make finding that perfect camp easier on families.

“Yesterday I was just on the phone with a mom who called and said she was looking for a water-polo camp for a 13-year-old, and I sort of sighed and thought, ‘I don’t know,’” Cicotte recalled on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “[But] I put in the search, and there were five water-polo camps for a 13-year-old in St. Louis.”

Joining Cicotte and host Don Marsh to talk about options for making the most of summertime through camp experiences and other summer-programming opportunities were Vicki Lang, camp director of Camp Little Giant near Carbondale, Illinois, and Mary Rogers, executive director of Sherwood Forest, which is located about 100 miles south of St. Louis.

Lang’s residential camp in the Shawnee National Forest serves both children and adults with disabilities. It’s been around since 1953 and draws campers ranging in age from 8 to 88.

But Lang said she’s noticed a trend, particularly in the Midwest among the general population, of “kids just not wanting to get outside” as much, and that’s affected attendance at some of the other residential and day camps offered at Touch of Nature, where Camp Little Giant is located.

“We’re seeing a slight decrease [in camp-going overall],” she said.

Rogers hasn’t seen similarly declining numbers at Sherwood Forest, where she estimates that about 90 percent of campers are growing up in functional poverty. In fact, she said, right now the camp has a waitlist.

“I think the trends sort of wax and wane,” added Rogers, who has remained involved at Sherwood Forest for more than five decades – ever since she was a camper there herself as a young teen. “One challenge is for camp professionals and camp directors to be able to advocate for the value of these kinds of experiences for kids and then figure out ways to introduce children to those experiences.”

If the options seem overwhelming, the Blueprint4Summer platform can be a good place to start.

“This year we have 8,500 opportunities listed on the site, and those are sortable by distance from your house and cost and age of your child and interest and dates,” Cicotte said.

Along with connecting with nature and engaging intellectual interests, building friendships remains as central as ever to summer camp, as several listeners and guests noted during the interview.

The conversation also touched on emotional readiness for camp – both for children and parents – and how the summer months spent outside a classroom can often result in great learning and growth.

Listen to the full discussion:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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