YMCA campers have fun-filled summer of learning

  • The YMCA campers made their own superhero capes one day, but they learned about real life heroes during visits with EMS and law enforcement, including a bloodhound from the sheriff’s office.

It’s fun to camp at the Y-M-C-A!

That’s not exactly how the lyrics go to the Village People’s 1978 song “YMCA”, but the statement sums up how campers felt during the Barnwell County Family YMCA’s second annual summer camp during June and July. Erin Ouzts and Caitlyn Williams led the camp, which had a different theme each week and included a variety of fun and educational activities.

“It was a blessing for us,” said Matt Mullen, the executive director of the Barnwell YMCA, adding how there were no behavioral problems.

The first week had a hero theme. While children (ages 5-12) dressed up as superheroes complete with capes, they also got to meet real life local heroes. Representatives from Medshore Ambulance Service, which is housed at the opposite end of the YMCA building, discussed how they save lives. The sheriff’s department also visited the campers and brought a bloodhound.

During nature week, campers explored the outdoors around the YMCA property. The Savannah River Ecology Lab brought various animals for an educational program. Barnwell County resident Noel Hilton also came to discuss snakes, particularly what to look for and how to distinguish venomous from non-venomous.

The summer was also filled with hands-on activities, such as making volcanoes and slime during science week. Other themes included agriculture, outer space and back to school.

“It was a really good and crafty fun summer,” said Chantsie Pickelsimer, the YMCA’s wellness director.

Mullen said it was neat to watch “friendships blossom” between the campers. He said some of the older children became mentors to their younger peers and volunteered for different tasks, such as cleaning and taking out the trash.

“Part of our core values is we want to teach them responsibility,” he said.

Next summer, Mullen said, they plan to offer a Leadership in Training program for the older children in order to build the next generation of leaders.

Mullen was a YMCA camp kid growing up and became a counselor later because he had a heart to serve. That led to a career with the YMCA in Illinois before moving south in 2014 to open the Barnwell facility, which is part of the Family YMCA of Greater Augusta.

The YMCA has started its “Prime Time” afterschool program, which is held weekdays from 2:30 to 6 p.m.

“Our goal is to make sure your children succeed this school year and that starts with getting all homework done. We also offer snacks along with fun crafts and games before you pick them up,” according to a post on the YMCA’s Facebook page.

The cost is $45 per week for YMCA members or $50 per week for non-members.

Call (803) 450-4151 or stop by the Barnwell County YMCA (660 Joey Zorn Boulevard, Barnwell) for more information and to register your child.