It may be high season for back-to-school sales, but summer break is actually only half over. For children needing something fun and challenging to do during the dog days of August or for parents who need a break from their kids sitting around playing video games all day, the answer remains the same: Camp Seymour.
Camp Seymour has been providing a safe and affordable recreational opportunity for children of all ages since 1905.
It started when Tacoma Mayor W.W. Seymour let youth from the YMCA come to his property during the summer to camp, said Scotty Jackson, executive director of Camp Seymour. Around 1907, Seymour deeded the property to the YMCA and it remains the camping arm of the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties today.
The expansive grounds on Kramer Road along Glencove total 130 acres, “110 when the tides is high,” Jackson added, and there is more than enough room for 20 cabins that house 10-12 campers and two leaders, a climbing wall, a rope course, sailing and canoeing, archery, a swimming pool, crafts, games and sports and even an organic garden.
Key Peninsula resident Jayce Richerson, 12, is at his third year of summer camp and he appreciates the values the camp and its counselors provide. “The adults treat us well and guide us to not do bad things. They teach ‘SAD TV,’ which stands for sex, alcohol, drugs, tobacco and violence and to stay away from those,” he said.
Summer programs range from day camps that run for a week to two-week overnight camps that include paddle trips around the peninsula, with campers staying at state parks overnight, and three-day backpack trips in the Olympics. For students in grades 9 and 10, there is a two-week trek teen leadership program where the campers learn the responsibilities of being a camp leader.
“I wouldn’t be able to do the scheduling with the confidence I do now without doing the camp,” said Bremerton resident Ambrielle Anderson, 21, who is assistant camp director, manages the program directors and schedules camp program activities. “Just to say I’ve been in a leadership program gives others confidence in me,” she said.
Summer programs are run for students from elementary to high school age and costs are around $600 to $900. But no one gets turned away from an inability to pay.
Jackson said the Y’s annual campaign helps a number of children to experience camp life. Recently, YUSA offered a $15,000 matching grant to provide 100 percent scholarships and the Y raised $30,000 to more than meet the goal.
Camp staff works with Communities in Schools Peninsula and with school district counselors, teachers and principals to provide outreach to kids who could benefit from a scholarship.
“It’s really a fun and comfortable place to come and hang out,” said 16-year-old Nate Martin, of Kent. He has been attending summer camp since he was 9. “You learn about who you are. It builds up my confidence because everyone is nice and supportive,” he said.
The eight weeks of summer camp activities isn’t the only time the camp is busy, as there also is a September through June marine science program run in conjunction with the Peninsula School District and other schools. In total, the program reaches nine counties and 135 schools, Jackson said, and uses state-approved science curriculum.
“It’s very hands-on marine science,” Jackson added. “We even have ‘belly’ biology where the kids lay on the dock and see what’s going on underneath.”
In between the school year and summer programs, the camp also runs weeklong camps for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Seattle and for the Washington Air National Guard.
This past year, Lowe’s wanted to partner with the camp that is run for MDA and several stores across the region pooled their community funding along with 40 volunteers as part of the Lowe’s Hero Program.
“They (Lowe’s) have the skill set to actually get some work done,” Jackson said, noting they helped install fencing for the pool and also built a new deck for the amphitheater, making it wheelchair-accessible.
Although the older structures on site are grandfathered in and don’t need to meet current ADA standards, the camp is upgrading cabins and bathrooms to be handicap-accessible and Lowe’s recently provided $20,000 in supplies to help further that goal.
A new program, called Camp Corral and sponsored by Golden Corral Restaurants, provides 100 percent scholarships to children from military families of fallen, wounded or disabled veterans, and the camps serves 180 children of all ages for that program.
“We’re thriving, we make camp accessible to everyone and we never turn anyone away,” Jackson said. “Kids go home more resilient, better prepared for school, and have a greater ability to make new friends.”
“Probably the most fun I’ve ever had is at Camp Seymour,” Martin said.