February 2, 2014 at 6:55 AM
LIVINGSTON, NJ - It's cold out there and we recently endured one of the coldest days of the year. For some people, these are the days to daydream about family trips to warm destinations and reminisce about the warm days of summers past. But for others, it is time to start making plans for next summer by researching camps and summer enrichment programs for their children or teens. Regardless of what people choose, one thing is the same for all—there are endless choices out there.
Luckily, there are also many services out there to help people tread through the myriad of summer camp choices, some of which include: One Happy Camper, The American Camp Association, Summer Camp, Trip Resources, Maine Camp Experience and The Camp Lady.
“Savvy parents should do research and register their kids for summer camp now if they haven’t already,” Maine Camp Experience Guide Laurie Kaiden said. “Many great camps are already 80 percent or more booked, including several Maine sleepaway camps, which are attended by kids from Livingston and surrounding towns.”
Services like Maine Camp Experiences dedicate their time to providing children with the highest quality summer camp experiences. According to Susie Lupert, the American Camp Association’s executive director in New Jersey, "It is the employees’ job to speak to parents for however long they need in order to break down the overwhelming process of weeding through camps."
“There is a camp for every child and every camp is different,” Lupert said. “We are a non-profit service, so we encourage families to take the chance to talk to us.”
Each of these services addresses the needs of the campers by discussing the aspects each of them is looking for, their individual interests, whether this will be their first camp experience and whether they are capable of the independence from their parents.
Specifically for New Jersey families looking for camps adhering to Jewish traditions and values, there is a program called One Happy Camper NJ, a free service available to help local families find the right sleepaway camp or teen program for their child.
“We help families find camps where their children can enjoy the typical day-to-day standard camp fares, while embracing their Jewish heritages,” said Tracy Levine, the manager at One Happy Camper NJ.
One Happy Camper NJ advocates and promotes Jewish summer camp as an important foundation of a strong Jewish community. Through public awareness, education and financial incentives, it seeks to expose the greatest number of children in the MetroWest area to the transformative experience of Jewish summer camp.
According to Levine, these summer camps are meant to enrich their lives and strengthen their bonds to the community and to each other. One Happy Camper is supported by The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, the Jewish identity-building organization of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, in conjunction with the Foundation for the Jewish Camp as a service to our local community.
To help offset camp fees, One Happy Camper offers a $1000 gift known as the One Happy Camper grant to children between the ages of 7–17, regardless of income. The grant can be used at any of 150+ Jewish overnight camps and teen programs of their choosing, from traditional to specialty camps, outdoor adventure, teen tours and camps for children with special needs. Over $1 million in grants have been awarded to local youth over the past five summers.
The school year is nearly halfway over and summer is quickly approaching, so now is the time to start planning for the summer. Summer camps can be costly, and in many instances people can be rewarded for early enrollment with cash savings incentives. There are many camp choices out there and several services available including the ones mentioned above to help people narrow down options and make informed decisions.