Pine Island Elementary fifth-grader Weston Parrish stopped to get information about Hastings-based Camp Michawana at the recent Comstock Park Summer Camp Expo.
Camp Michawana was one of 27 camps showing what they have to offer to children this summer, from hiking to zip-lining, art, science, dance and history.
The Comstock Park Community Outreach Organization hosted the expo at Pine Island Elementary School to get local children signed up for camp and connect parents with affordable options. Students from Kenowa Hills, Northview, Sparta and Comstock Park schools were also invited.
Weston said he was eager to choose a camp. “I’d just rather do something different than staying at home,” he said. “There’s a lot more to do outside than inside.”
There are many ways to reach children through life experiences, and summer camp is one of them, said representatives of the outreach group, who hope to make the expo an annual event. While families struggling financially may see camp as out of reach, local scholarships are available. At Camp Michawana, more than 65 percent of campers receive financial assistance to attend, and at Camp Blodgett, in West Olive, a majority of students attend for $40 per week or less.
“We’ve never turned a kid away,” said Rochelle Visser, Camp Michawana program director.
A week spent outdoors learning about nature, or immersed in art, science or history can open children’s eyes to a world of possibilities, said Dan Clark, a local business person who helped start the Community Outreach organization.
“For the kids at-risk, it’s just an eye-opening experience for them,” said Clark, who said one goal was to show Hispanic families the option. “This is the opportunity to get loose, get into nature and have a new experience.”
Missi McPherson, Comstock Park Public Schools educational support services coordinator, said there are great reasons to send children to camp.
“Socially, academically, keeping them physical, and giving them opportunities to shine on their own and geting them off the couch, are all benefits,” she said.
Clark’s wife, Ellen Clark, a former Comstock Park elementary school teacher, said many students haven’t traveled much at all.
“It’s always amazing how many kids haven’t seen Lake Michigan,” she said. “They just don’t have many life experiences.
The Comstock Park Community Outreach is a coalition of agencies, organizations, churches, township government, schools and service clubs who meet monthly to collaborate on improving the quality of life for those in need or at risk in ther community.