by Ryan Jo Summers
We have just turned the page on a bright new year. Even though it’s cold outside, it’s never too early to think of summer camp for the kids. Have you considered one that connects children with shelter animals? Tying together children’s love of animals and shelter pets’ needs for contact, shelters across the country are uniting pets with summer campers.
The benefits of summer camps for kids are countless. Spending time at a summer camp builds self-confidence and self-esteem for youngsters. It builds social skills, leadership skills and a willingness to try new things. Psychology Today stated campers become more resilient to life’s stressors (February 2, 2012). Children also make lasting friendships.
A number of summer camps for kids allow animal shelters to bring suitable animals for interaction. Depending on the camper’s age, they may instruct the children on how to train basic obedience and manners to dogs who need it. They might learn proper pet care and safe handling. Younger or shy children might simply snuggle with pets who only want to be loved. The interactions make the animals more adoptable when they return to the shelter. The lessons stay with the children far beyond the summer.
In addition to hands-on time with furry animals, kids also partake in arts and crafts, songs and campfires, field trips, and most normal summer camp experiences, which will vary from camp to camp. Spaces fill up fast, so early registration is important. Camp prices will also vary. Each camp is slightly different so thoroughly check to see what is expected for your little camper.
In our region, http://www.crayonsandcollars.com/shelter-programs-for-kids-2/ has two listings in NC, four in GA, three in SC and four in TN. In North Carolina, contact either the Humane Society of Charlotte NC 704-337-0534 and SPCA of Wake County, Raleigh NC 919-772-2326 for information or the Crayons and Collars website. In South Carolina, Spartanburg Humane Society in Greenville offers another program; Camp Love-A-Pet for grades 5-10. Contact 864-583-4805.
There is a wonderful short video at https://aawl.org/summer-camp which shows children interacting with a variety of animals. Although produced in Arizona, it does show what local shelters are offering campers.
Beyond shelter animals, the Nature Center of WNC hosts “Wild Weeks” for grades 1-7 and can be contacted at 828-298-5600. A search of www.mom.me/pets will show “12 Amazing Summer Camps for Animal Lovers” (March 20, 2015) all over the US and beyond. More locally, in Durham NC, there is The Leaping Lemurs Science Camp which is more science driven for older children. They can study and interact with lemurs instead of Labradors.
Regardless of where children and pets come together, there is bound to be joyous laughter and wagging tails. At the end of the camp, they will both return better for the experience.
Ryan Jo Summers is a local writer and long-time animal advocate. You can learn more about her, see her pets, or contact her at her website: www.ryanjosummers.com