By RUBEN LOWMAN
One of the hottest tickets in town for kids over the summer just went on sale in North Myrtle Beach.
The North Myrtle Beach Aquatic & Fitness Center opened its registration for their annual kids summer camps last week, with the highly in-demand camps having a big impact on the area for going on two decades.
Since the aquatic center’s inception nearly twenty years ago, it has made children’s activities a key part of what they offer to the local community under longtime director Melinda Chappell, with some of the best camps, staff, interactive classes and facilities around. Their much-loved yearly summer camps have become a cornerstone of these activities, selling out each year typically in just a matter of a few weeks.
Ryan Windell, activities director for the NMB Aquatic & Fitness Center, runs all of the facility’s kid’s programming including the summer camps. She explained why their summer camps have become such a hit with local children and parents alike.
“Our camps, much like any of our children’s programs, are designed to offer a safe, warm welcoming and well supervised environment that provides active play, creative arts and structured programming,” Windell said. “We encourage self-esteem, independent thinking, social interaction, group cohesion and positivity. Our goal is for your child to feel accepted and encouraged to create new friendships and try new things!”
The aquatic center will be unveiling a brand-new camp this year, alongside its flagship Camp Summer Blast, which they have been hosting since 2007 and is for kids ages six to twelve, in addition to their Pre-K Camp, which will be offered to children ages three to five for the second year this summer. Windell said the new camp, the Jr. Counselor Program, will bring a brand-new element to the center, as it is open to students who are entering seventh to ninth grades.
“The Jr. Counselor Program will accept 6-8 students throughout the 10 week program,” Windell explained. “With this being a new program the hope is that we will be successful in having that many students apply. The goal is to see students who have participated in our programs in the past and potential candidates who are new to our program participate and grow from this experience.”
With the debut of the new camp at the aquatic center this year, Windell said they are looking to branch out to a slightly older group of area children and give them a fun place they can spend their time during the summer.
“The Jr. Counselor Program is a new program that is geared towards those campers/students who have aged out of camp but aren’t old enough to have a job yet,” she explained. “Through this program they will have the opportunity to learn job skills, responsibility, time management, etc. with a side of Camp Summer Blast fun.”
Windell said that in order to be accepted into this program students have to apply for the positions and interview to be one of the six junior counselors that will be at the aquatic center each week. She said that the program will give the junior counselors who are chosen the opportunity to shadow and assist camp counselors with daily activities while also learning basic job skills.
“They will learn how to lead games and help with activities setup and cleanup,” Windell described. “They will have the opportunity to become American Red Cross CPR/First Aid certified, create and complete a community wide project and complete a reflection journal each week allowing them to look back on what they have learned throughout the program.”
For the pre-schoolers, Windell said they would be getting the opportunity to experience a three-day morning camp, with each different week having its own special theme and campers getting the chance to take part in an array of fun activities centered around the week’s specific theme.
“Pre-K Camps are themed and campers participate in arts and crafts, music and movement, story time, creative play and active play. These camps are hands on fun and the activities relate to themes of the camps each summer,” Windell described. “This summer Pre-K campers have the option of participating in Under the Sea Camp or Down on the Farm Camp.”
The two Pre-K Camps will be held over the last two weeks of May, with the “Under the Sea” themed camp running from May 24-26 and the “Down on the Farm” themed camp being held from May 31-June 2.
Windell said that the aquatic center accepts up to 16 campers per session and that the pre-school camp sold out in its first year, underlining how this year was already headed in the direction of selling out.
“Registration opened Monday, March 14, and spaces are over halfway filled,” she said.
Camp Summer Blast, which is coming up on its 15th anniversary of being held at the aquatic center, is a weeklong day camp, from Monday to Friday. Windell said that each week is also themed and campers have the opportunity to choose their own theme and then participate in a wide variety of activities hand-crafted to the program they selected.
“Camp Summer Blast is a very active camp with a good mix of down time,” Windell said. “Each week is themed and campers participate in arts and crafts, gym free play, group games, swimming, movies on our big screen, classroom play, challenges, an annual talent show, kids fitness classes, local presenters visiting and the list could go on.”
The camp, which begins on June 6 and continues until August 12, accepts 60 campers each week and is an overwhelming favorite with local children, as well as their parents, selling out every year. Windell emphasized just how popular it is.
“We opened registration this past Saturday, March 12, at noon and at this time we are 98 percent sold out,” she said.
The exceptional success of the summer camps and the aquatic center overall are reflective of their enduring impact within the North Myrtle Beach community, and Windell said that is something all of the staff takes to heart and helps them to further provide a fun and happy place for parents and kids to come to every day.
“We take pride in the high expectations and goals we set for our programs and love to see the continued growth we have experienced since opening our doors in 2005. Our camps are special because we take the time to truly be hands on with our campers no matter the age. We aren’t afraid to get messy, have fun, try something new and challenging in order to create those one of a kind experiences that campers, parents and staff will never forget,” Windell said.