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An Alliance for Summer Fun

The Pennsylvania Day Camp Alliance offers an alternative to the usual summer camp experience

Do you want your child to experience a summer full of educational experiences, challenging activities and a wide variety of recreational options? Consider a Pennsylvania Day Camp Alliance camp.

This group of 10 independent day camps throughout the state, includes Blue Bell Camp - Blue Bell; Burn Brae Day Camp of Creative Arts – Dresher; Camp America Day Camp – Chalfont; Sesame/Rockwood Camps - Blue Bell; and Willow Grove Day Camp - Willow Grove.

PDCA camps are each privately owned and operated. Many belong to the American Camp Association, which sets guidelines for things like staff training and insurance. At PDCA camps, there is a strong focus on training and education, according to Howard Batterman, owner of PDCA member camp Sesame/Rockwood Camps.

“There is a lot of sharing of ideas, speakers for staff development and training,” he said. “We meet frequently through the year, and share ideas how we can better individual programs. We’re all pretty unique, but there’s a common thread of providing quality programming for parents and children.”

Some camps provide lunch and snacks, others require the children to bring their own. One thing they all provide, though, is transportation.

“PDCA camps provide transportation, which is a terrific convenience,” Batterman said. “Curbside to curbside, right from the child’s house to camp and back.”

Most summer camps last for eight weeks, Batterman said, with some starting on June 18 (through Aug. 10), and others beginning a week later, June 25 (and running through Aug. 17). Sessions vary by camp, from two- to eight-week sessions. He said that the price-per-week typically drops with the more weeks your child attends.

“Camps generally try to encourage the child to be there longer, to really make the child feel like they’ve accomplished something,” Batterman said.

A traditional day at camp runs from 9 a.m. to about 3:30 p.m., with many camps offering before- and after-camp care for working parents, from as early as 7:30 a.m. to as late as 6 p.m.

The PDCA offers what Batterman calls a “menu” of choices in camps, based on variety, size, quality and focus.

At Sesame/Rockwood Camps, campers experience art, theater and music, and there is a strong emphasis on forging friendships. Eight daily activity periods each last about 40 minutes, and campers can select the major or minor programs they want to experience.

“A typical day, they’re going to be swimming twice a day, lunch, a little bit of sports, art, a little bit of adventure,” Batterman said. “It has to do with the camp’s menu, so to speak.”

Because of the variety of services provided, like transportation, PDCA’s independent camps tend to cost a bit more than traditional day camps, but Batterman said the value outweighs the expense.

“It’s a little more money, but I think it’s worth it, and there is a wide range of pricing in the PDCA,” he said.

While you still have time to register for PDCA camps, Batterman says you shouldn’t wait, especially since you’ll want to tour the camp facility and meet the directors.

“There is still time, but it’s getting late,” Batterman said. “There may still be space at camp. Now is absolutely the time [to register].”

When considering a day camp, Batterman suggests asking the following questions, in addition to visiting the camps in person.

  • Can I visit during the summer? (“An open door policy helps keep everyone on their toes,” Batterman said.
  • Do you do a background check on the staff?
  • What is the counselor-to-camper ratio?
  • What are the qualifications of teachers in specific programs?
  • How long is the season? How long is each session? How long is each day?
  • What safety precautions are taken at camp?
  • Is the staff monitored?
  • Also ask questions with regard to children’s individual needs, such as how often sunscreen is applied, what precautions are taken with regard to food allergies, etc. 

“PDCA camps give children a sense of independence. What they learn at camp is they learn to work as a team, and you hope that they become better students, more well-rounded,” Batterman said. “Most of the time, we’re pretty successful, as long as a parent can find the right camp for the right child. That’s why parents should shop around for a program.”

Holly Robinson May 25, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I recommend sleep away camp for kids ages 8-12. Check out Camppinnacle.com. It has a really positive impact on kids. I also know of an incredible experience for teens during the summer- Adventuretreks.com.
CAE Graphic Design March 15, 2013 at 03:10 PM
What about cost for low income?
Christine DeLaurentis March 15, 2013 at 03:25 PM
When I first researched camps a few years ago it was eye opening to me that in order to have my daughter attend any of the camps listed above...it would cost me more than my monthly mortgage payment...sometimes each WEEK! ...and never mind the issues that the exorbitant costs only cover from 9am-3pm. If a family has two working parents (necessitating the need for summer camp) then they also will have the additional cost of before and after care which could add another $100-$200/week to the camp costs. There needs to be financially accessible camp options for parents. We are decidedly a middle income family and all the above camps are light years out of our reach financially.

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