A camp director
Rosa Nodal, a veteran program director at the McCormick Tribune YMCA, chatted with us about how usually sane moms and dads are fussier than colicky newborns when it comes to camp registration—and how to ease the signing-up pain.
Have you ever witnessed parent meltdown during the hectic registration process?
After 27 years in this field, I’ve seen parents flip out once they realize that the online availability [in a camp] has been filled. They’ve publicly shed tears and yelled out loud at the thought of their kid not being able to attend camp. With their backs against the wall, I’ve even had parents beg and offer to pay extra money for an available slot at the camp.
Where do parents go wrong?
The bottom line is that parents have to stop procrastinating and remain aware of registration deadlines. But every year, without fail, I’ll hear frustrated parents admit to forgetting to mark their calendars and letting the dates sneak up on them. Another matter is the rat race to grab a spot at one of the cheaper camps.
Are you suggesting that parents opt for a more expensive program?
I’m saying parents should be aware of the overwhelming number of applicants trying to grab a slot at the city’s popular, affordable camps. The seats are occupied very quickly. If higher prices become an issue, I recommend inquiring about payment plans and financial assistance.
Nodal dishes on the ABCs of camp enrollment.
ASK ABOUT ACCREDITATION
“Go to the American Camp Association’s website, acacamps.org, to view a list of standards for accredited institutions. This reveals the standards of staff-to-camper ratios for various ages, whether or not the goals for camp activities are developmentally based, that emergency transportation is always available and first-aid centers and trained staff are available when campers are present.”
“Read the fine print. Factor in the cost of field trips [because they’re often] separate from registration fees. Inquire about late-registration fees. Ask if there’s a penalty for late pickups. We charge $1 per minute starting at 6:05pm. Research reimbursement programs. Orgs like Action for Children pay a portion of camp costs, depending on the household income. [Go to actforchildren.org for more info.]”
CONSIDER THE COMMUTE
“You’ll be traveling back and forth daily, so keep the drive, and traffic, in mind. For parents who work odd hours or overtime, look for camps that hold early and late hours. Some places charge a fee for late pickups.”
DIG UP THE DETAILS
“Since your darling one is going to be here most of the day, make sure the curriculum is fun-filled and suits their needs. If your child has food allergies, make it known and ask about how that will be handled. Often, campers are in summer school. Inform the administrators immediately and ask if the programs accepts kids for half days.”
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Sign up soon. McCormick Tribune YMCA, 1834 N Lawndale Ave (773-235-2525, mccormicktribuneymca.org). Mon–Fri 5:30am–10pm, Sat 8am–5pm, Sun 9am–5pm; Jun 14–Aug 20. $150 per week; members $140.