It’s a steamy morning at the JCC outdoor pool, and dozens of campers are swimming, dancing to “Uptown Funk,” playing games and painting. They occasionally run through a giant sprinkler to keep cool.
Five-year-old Micah Kraft is relaxing on his towel after his swim lesson.
“My favorite part of camp is the pool,” he says. “I like to swim with an orange noodle.”
“I’m learning the backstroke,” said Patrick Coughlin, who is 9. “I like to player soccer, too, and make friendship bracelets.”
The JCC camps, for toddlers through teens, are packed this summer.
“We have higher enrollment than we did pre-COVID,” said Heather Greenberg, who has been running KinderCamp since 2010. “We are full throttle. It’s like Disney on the North Shore.”
“Families keep adding more weeks,” added Heather Gravalese, director of Camp Simchah, which serves kids grades 1-7.
Out on Children’s Island, campers are enjoying the freedoms they missed during COVID, said Lynch-van Otterloo YMCA Director Brian Flynn.
“It’s been so nice to get kids engaged in real camp and not have all the COVID guidelines we had to follow,” Flynn said.
Children’s Island counselor-in-training Will Wade, 14, is leading the island’s youngest campers, Seal Pups, in fun activites.
“It’s all about making their experiences better,” he said.
The camp’s traditional skits with counselors, campers and staff are Wade’s favorite part of the day.
“The skits have been ramping up in quality and craziness.”
The Lynch-van Otterloo Y has 3,400 kids on Children’s Island and its other day camps, including sports and gymnastics.
“We’ve given out $100,000 in assistance to campers,” Flynn said. Most of that money was donated by people in Marblehead.
“Our community is so supportive,” he said.
In fact, the Y is celebrating a $1 million donation from the Gery family in Marblehead, whose children attended Children’s Island. The money will go toward renovations on Children’s Island. Another private donor contributed $250,000.
“We’ll be building new structures and restablizing other ones,” Flynn said. “We have a committee working on it.”
Flynn says it’s great to see campers running up the gangplank from the Hannah Glover ferry to Children’s Island, as they have for decades.
“It’s like childhood is preserved out there,” Flynn says. “It’s truly Neverland. It has that pull and magic. It’s where time stands still.”
“It’s like childhood is preserved out there. It’s truly Neverland.”Lynch-van Otterloo YMCA Director Brian Flynn, on Children’s Island
At Riverhead Beach, SUP East Coast Style offers paddle board camps for kids 3-14 years old, with registration through the Recreation and Parks Department. The Rec and Park also offers its own summer programs, including camps based at local playgrounds.
Camp Devereux (at the Devereux School) has been running at full capacity all summer, with a more relaxed approach to summer fun.
“I like to call it a big backyard with your friends,” said Director Elizabeth Laub. She predicts the summer highlight will happen next week when Captain Jack Sparrow visits camp during Pirate Week.
And one of the newest camps in town, Island Roots, is running at the Tower School, as well as a location on Tioga Way. It offers a variety of programs for campers 3 years old to eighth grade.
Island Roots CEO Jessie Stephens says it’s been a great summer so far.
“Everyone’s so happy,” Stephens says. Campers love it, parents love it, and our staff is having a great time.”
Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.