Summer Camp Gears Up, Expands

Rec Commission adds camp for teens

June 4th, 2010

by Erik Weber

SOUTH TOMS RIVER - Borough youth and their parents have reason to celebrate, here, after the borough recreation commission formalized plans Thursday night to expand its annual summer camp to include teens aged 13 through 16, largely due to funds acquired through the borough municipal alliance.

The summer camp, which in the past included borough children aged five to twelve years old and employed teaching professionals and teenaged volunteers to help run it, this year will add the second section to engage the teenagers who wanted to participate but exceeded the amount of volunteers needed for the elementary school-aged section.

Councilman Sanford Ross, Jr., liaison to the recreation commission, said that the camp section for older children would include programming to educate teens on alcohol, drug and substance abuse awareness due to the contribution of the municipal alliance. The alliance is part of a state-wide network of volunteer-driven, municipally-based education and public awareness programs utilized to combat drug and alcohol abuse among school-aged children.

Parents of at least 12 teenagers have so far expressed interest in signing up for the program, said William E. Gleason, chairman of the recreation commission. Twenty-four elementary-aged children have so far been signed up to the original program, he added, continuing that between 40 and 60 were expected by the start of camp.

Children participating in either section of the program will find their days full of activities, events and field trips.

For the elementary school-aged campers, Mr. Ross said, there will be "14 actual travel day trips, including three days swimming at Berkeley Island Park, three days bowling, two days at the Marquee movie theater in Toms River [during their] free matinee film for camps on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the summer, a Lakewood BlueClaws game on July 12th for their camp day, Jenkinsons' Aquarium one day, the Ocean County Fair, Ocean County Parks Department event called Funtasia in Lakewood, Clementon Water Park, and Jakes Branch Park."

The trip to the Clementon Amusement Park, he added, was made possible by a donation of all tickets for the campers, staff and volunteers coupled with a donation of transportation by Berkeley Township's Central Regional School District. Additional transportation for the remainder of the trips would be handled by the Toms River School District, though the councilman noted that unlike previous years, where the district was able to donate the staff and vehicles to transport the campers, the current economic crisis forced the district administrators to charge the camp program the cost of the transportation, totaling $2,470 for both sections of the camp.

"We fully understand [the charges]," he said, noting that the school district always helped out as much as it could in the past.

The rest of the camp days, Mr. Ross continued, would be in-house activity days, with the final week of camp largely spent for a sports day and a community day, where area emergency personnel arrive to talk to the children.

Teens involved in the newly expanded program would have a slightly altered schedule to reflect their added substance abuse awareness curriculum, with bowling and some other field trip days utilized for the municipal alliance-funded areas.

Camp Director Gloria Achinson strongly urged that the Clementon Amusement Park trip, originally scheduled exclusively for the younger campers due to transportation budgetary restraints, be worked out to also allow for the older children's participation.

All commissioners present agreed, and Mr. Ross said that broad efforts would be made to contact the area school districts, religious and non-profit organizations to try and find a solution to allow the older campers the ability to go.

Bagged lunches including a sandwich, drink and healthy snack would be provided to all campers through a state-funded program provided by the Lakewood School District, said the council liaison, with a final all-inclusive barbeque held on Friday, July 31st for all staff, volunteers, campers and their families at the Recreation Center grounds.

All five staff members and Ms. Achinson will be returning from the previous year, reported the camp director, and three substitutes were named and accepted by the recreation commissioners during the meeting.

The budget for the expanded 2010 summer camp program included allocating $16,359 for payroll, $300 for an insurance rider, an estimated $800 for camp t-shirts, approximately $1,000 for snacks, drinks and miscellaneous expenses, $2,470 for transportation, $1,860 for the field trips themselves, an estimated $250 for the end of camp barbeque, for a total summer camp budget of $23,039.

Camp registration costs $75 per camper, with an additional $100 for each camper aged 5 to 12 for field trips if paid prior to the start of camp, or $125 after. Due to the reduced number of field trips the teenaged campers would participate in, a fee of $50 was determined fair by the recreation commissioners if paid before the first day of camp, or $75 after.

Mr. Ross congratulated the commissioners on a successful year of promoting and acquiring Recreation Center rentals, which led to a trust fund of about $18,000 to pay for the annual camp program, outside of registration and trip fees.

"You guys are in much better shape," he said. "You talked up [the center rentals], and this is where it shows."

Assessing the camp budget allocations against the trust fund and expected income from the camp fees, the council liaison said that the commission should come out of the summer program with approximately $4,000 still in its fund.

"You guys are doing a fantastic job," he stated.

The final registration for parents seeking to enroll their children in the borough summer camp will be held on Saturday, June 12th from 9 am to 11 am in the Recreation Center off Drake Road.

For further information, please visit STRNJ.com or call Mr. Gleason at 732-505-3243 or Mr. Ross at 908-783-0291.