By Dave Woods • dwoods@OfficialKidsMag.com
Catharyne Nell loves to go to summer camp.
“It is very fun,” she said of Camp Bentonville. “We have really good activities. They are really fun.”
The 10-year-old Willowbrook Elementary School fourth grader is already anticipating and planning for summer camps.
“Crystal Bridges came last summer and we would do art that’s from there,” she said. “There was art work that was an optical illusion and they showed us a picture of it and it was very long.”
Catharyne, who likes art class in school, also found time in her rigorous camp agenda to take advantage of other camp activities.
“There was a swimming one and a community center one and we play volleyball,” she explained. “Camp Legos was really fun. We would make things out of Legos and they would assign us things. We were assigned to make something themed after Minecraft.”
From the art camp, I learned new skills and techniques,” she said. ”I learned stuff that I can put into my art work. I saw a lot of improvement since I started swimming at camp. The butterfly is my favorite stroke.”
Catharyne was quick to point out the benefits of camp.
“You will have a lot of fun there,” she added. “You will learn a lot of things that will help you in life as you get older.”
That kind of praise is music to the ears of Ryan Ward, director of Camp Bentonville, an annual series of summer camps produced by the Bentonville Parks and Recreation Department. Throughout the summer many area parks and rec departments, community centers, youth clubs, private organizations and churches will host camps for local youth. The number of camps in Northwest Arkansas alone is amazing and there is surely a camp to suit the interests of every kid.
“We have something for everyone,” Ryan, who started out as a summer camp counselor, said. “If you are into sports, we have camps. If you are into the outdoors with hiking and kayaking, we have that. Even if you are into video games and programs for computers, we do that too. We seriously offer something for every one.”
For the past five or six years, Camp Bentonville has been selling out their popular series of summer camps.
“When kids show up and see all of he things that are set up, and all of the things they are going to get to do, they are just very excited,” he said. “Every summer I see it. That’s why we have so many kids come back and do the camps over and over. It’s because they are so much fun.”
The biggest challenge, Ryan explained, is trying to stay organized.”
When you are working with 600 kids there are a lot of moving parts,” he laughed.
“Camp Lego is very popular,” he said. “Camp Crystal Bridges is very popular. Camp Memorial is what most summer camps are based around. It’s a sports camp. We will do soccer and kickball tournaments. We have a field day and there is a pool day. They get to do all of what a summer camp would be in one week.”
Camp Bentonville provides an affordable opportunity for parents, Ryan said. But, it also provides a great time for the kids.
“You are getting the opportunity to go out and make new friends and be outside during the summertime,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to get out, have a great time and stay active.”
On the court
In Fayetteville, the Ronnie Brewer “Brew Crew” Basketball Camp is always a popular summer time experience for those looking to improve their game and up their moves on the court.
Ronnie Brewer graduated from Fayetteville High School, attended the University of Arkansas, where he played basketball, and then joined the National Basketball Association playing for several pro teams including the Thunder and the Jazz.
Candice Graham, Ronnie’s sister, runs his charitable foundation. She believes 100 percent in the importance of summer camps of all kinds. But, she is partial to her brother’s namesake camp.
“It’s a camp that meets every kid where their skills are at,” she said. “You don’t have to be the star athlete that’s on track to go on to a Division-1 school, or even on to the pros.”
The Brew Crew camps are divided into two age groups. The first is for kindergarten through sixth grade kids.
“We start with just learning how to play,” she said. “We have some of the best coaches as counselors. They all have experience playing college basketball and/or from the NBA. It’s fun and not a stressful camp. It’s not one of those with a lot of pressure. Everybody gets something out of the camp. Everyone gets to participate.”
The goal of this camp, Candice said, is to learn the fundamentals of the game of basketball and improve skills over the summer. So, when you go back to your team, season, or your league, you have improved.
Candice said the most popular camp is easily the kindergarten through sixth grade camp.
“It is the biggest one with lots of kids,” she explained. “It’s so good for them because they are getting to socialize in the summer. You are getting to play with large groups of kids and play fun activities. It’s a safe place for releasing some of that energy during the summer.”
Visit their Facebook page to learn more about the charity and Brew Crew camps.
In the Spotlight
Basketball or a traditional summer camp not your style?
How about trying out a summer theater camp. Trike Theatre in Bentonville offers theatrical summer camps for kids of a variety of ages.
Paul Savas, executive director of Trike Theatre, said the theater for youth will be offering a variety of camps and learning experiences this summer.
“The Trike Academy is basically theater camp and classes throughout the school year and summer,” he explained. “There are acting classes and behind the stage classes, audition classes and musical theater classes. Over the summer we have in-depth summer camps for a wide range of kids who are out of school.”
While the theater is serious business to many trained professionals, Paul suggested kids not lose sight of a very important aspect of theater, it’s fun.
“Kids are going to have fun in a safe environment with a highly educated staff and highly trained teachers. They will learn about theater.
Learning “soft skills,” Paul added, is an important part of theater.
Students will learn things important for future success,” he said. “They will learn self confidence, problem solving, working in a team, and communication skills. Those are just some of what theater teaches. They will have a super cool time, meet new people and make some new friends. They are going to be engaged in the experience with some amazingly talented teaching artists, and they will make some theater.”
To find camps offered by the Trike Theatre and to get registered, click here.
But Wait, There’s More!
Many area communities offer summer camps. Some may not yet have all of that information available and online. Check your local churches to see when vacation Bible schools are scheduled. Area Boys and Girls Clubs offer a variety of summer activities and events.
•The Rogers Activity Center (RAC) in partnership with the City of Rogers offers a summer day camp named H.A.P.P.Y. at the RAC. Make sure you go to the centers web site to see what’s going on. Go to rogersrecreation.com to learn more.
•The Rogers Aquatics Center offers a Summer League Swimming Team program and basic swimming classes for several different skill levels.
•The Bella Vista Property Owners Association (POA) offers a variety of summer activities including tennis and golf camps. Information will be posted at bellavistapoa.com when it is available.
•The City of Fayetteville provides summer camps for its young residents including Camp Wilson at Wilson Park, a Drama Camp, an Outdoor Adventure Camp, and a Soccer Camp. Go to the city web site and search for “Camps” to see what is available.
•Private organizations often offer special camps that are both fun and interesting. Check out the Amazeum Summer Camp schedule to keep the learning fun during the summer. Go to amazeum.org for more information, fees and schedules.
•Boys and Girls Clubs offer many summer camp opportunities. Check out the Boys and Girl’s Club of Fayetteville and Boys and Girls Club of Benton County and see what’s on their summer plan.
•Most area churches, including the First Baptist Church of Fayetteville, offer vacation Bible school for their members and non-members. Check out what FBC Fayetteville has going on this summer by hovering over “Connect” and clicking on “VBS 2018” at fbcfayetteville.org.
•Many area camps offer special tuition assistance for those who meet the admission guidelines. Camp War Eagle is one of them. Camp War Eagle offers day and overnight camps and a wide range of activities in a Christ based environment. Go to campwareagle.org for additional information.