NEWTON, NJ – Camp Iliff was abuzz with children Saturday, Dec. 15, for the Christmas Extravaganza.
Manager Mary Sullivan said this is one of four special events the camp holds each year. The others are for Halloween, Dr. Seuss Day in February, and a carnival in July.
For the rest of the year, Camp Iliff is a combination day care center and an even venue for birthday parties, and the like. Children attending the extravaganza were a mix of day care children, and others from the area.
“People see the sign and think we’re a camp,” Sullivan said, noting Theresa Iliff started with a camp in 2000, then opened this venue.
“We cater to working parents,” she said.
They are open long hours for commuters, from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Camp Iliff has about 60 children in the full-day program, and about 100 for after-school care. Children are bused in from all over the area for the after school program.
“We’re working parents best friend,” Sullivan said, explaining Camp Iliff is open on days school is closed, and has children picked up on half days. “Most day care centers aren’t.”
There are between 50 and 55 employees in the main camp in Newton. A second location opened in the Rockaway Mall in 2010, also for day care and birthday parties.
All parties at both venues are held on weekends.
“We’re open seven days a week,” Sullivan said.
Camp Iliff has held fundraisers for churches and other charities.
"And we donate to every tricky tray in the school district,” Sullivan said.
She keeps an email list of parents of the day care children, and of those who attend events.
"We have a lot of parents on our list and we do a lot of promotions and have online coupons,” she added, noting the camp staff works hard to publicize events.
At the extravaganza, children were walking around with tiger faces, or penguins poking their heads over their eyebrows or flower or holiday themes courtesy of Janice Harrison of Pixie Painters.
They then took advantage of a bouncy house, a soft climbing wall, a five-level indoor playground, or for smaller children, Toddler Town, which features climbing apparatus and a double slide.
Other children were making Christmas decorations and gifts heavy on the glue and glitter or at a table writing a letter to Santa that Camp Iliff promised special delivery to the North Pole.
Besides getting photos taken on Santa’s lap, children could also participate in stories with Mrs. Claus. Santa and Mrs. Claus were strolling hand-in-hand around the camp. Santa’s elves were also on had to help out.
Children could additionally dance the Candy Cane Limbo.
One room of the camp is a small roller rink, where children could roller skate or ride scooters or tricycles. Employees were on hand to give instructions to the novice skaters.
The snack bar was also open with Christmas-themed treats, including snowman cupcakes with marshmallows. The camp has a “stuff shop” full of child-oriented items as well.
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