Despite increasing the capacity for kids by one-third this year, the Town of Hay River’s Summer Heat program was nearly full only two hours after registration opened on May 22.
“We increased the price from $160 in past years to $320, and it was an issue when the forms went out,” said Travis Darling, the town’s recreation programmer. “But it really wasn’t an issue when registration came around. Most of the 60 open spots were filled within the first few hours.”
Summer Heat is a camp for children aged six through 12, and runs for eight weeks in July and August.
In previous years, there was only one group of about 40 kids and it was held primarily in parks around town. This year, the decision has been made to split them up by age group so as to offer more age-appropriate activities that vary widely in terms of both scope and location.
“We don’t want to set a hard limit,” said Marissa Oteiza, a co-ordinator with the program. “What age we cut off at will depend on who and how many sign up, but we’re thinking it will be around eight or nine.”
Oteiza said that, by dividing the group, the program can admit more children and the activities will be better targeted to the interests of those participants. Similar to other years, the ratio of adults to children will be about one to 10, but with the increase in spots, the town hired two more people for the summer.
“This isn’t just a babysitting service,” Oteiza noted. “It’s about getting planned, integrated programming in place that will help them learn life skills and have fun for those eight weeks, and we get to know those kids and their interests.”
The registration process this year also changed in that those wanting to sign up for the entire program were registered first, followed by the kids who only wanted to come for select weeks or even days.
Darling said, in other years, there had been a lack of consistency in the programming as a result of uneven numbers of kids throughout a given week and the new system is more structurally sound.
Oteiza – who will be in charge of the older group – said the age division has been a long time coming.
Danelle Stelnack, co-ordinator for the younger children this year, agreed, and added that the split allows staff to meet everyone’s needs more easily.
“Last year we found it tough,” she said. “This year, the younger kids will be at the pool, park, and on some days the library, and we’re going to be doing a lot of crafts.”
Older children are set to go on more hikes and outdoor excursions, work on longer art projects as opposed to crafts, and even do some work with Ecology North.
“I suppose you could say Summer Heat is going green,” said Oteiza.
As of May 24, the registration process had filled 55 of the 60 available spots.
— Sarah Ladik