Kids and the YMCA

School Year and Summer Programs Offer Opportunities for Growth, Team and Relationship Building Skills

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By West Cook YMCA

From infancy through the teen years, the West Cook YMCA is there for the children of the ten communities it serves. With programming that spans the range of child care to teen youth exchange programs with a sister YMCA in Saitama, Japan, the West Cook YMCA aims to serve the whole child.

Elizabeth Lopez, Youth Development Director, says the YMCA's programming focuses on comprehensive child development, from the cognitive to social and emotional aspects of development.

Lopez points out that the after and before school childcare programs follow a club model to help children explore new areas. "We emphasize social interaction, team building and relationship building. We incorporate physical activity to instill the importance of lifelong physical movement from an early age," she said.

A half-day preschool teaches the younger set from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. each week day. Family programming is built around tutoring, teen nights, and family events such as the National YMCA annual Healthy Kids Day Event, which offers health screening and healthy lifestyle education for the entire family.

A Service Learning component offers a range of age-appropriate service opportunities. Notes Lopez, "We're moving toward the model of helping young people become involved first in their local community, then on a national and international level."

Summer camp has been an integral part of the YMCA experience since 1885, and the West Cook YMCA offers two separate day camps aimed at helping kids grow over the summer.

Rebecca Boblett, School Age Coordinator, says that Camp Magellan is aimed at expanding the world for all campers. "We give kids an outlook into global life and different cultures. We help them think outside their world."

There is an outdoor focus to Camp Magellan with children participating in different activities daily. Children go to the pool for swimming at least three days a week, participate in active challenges, such as rock wall climbing, and also take a field trip at least once a week.

Boblett notes that the summer culminates with a World Service Carnival. "The carnival at the end of the summer is a fundraiser. Our campers sell crafts to raise money for children's programming in developing countries. It really teaches our campers to think about others," she said.

Camp Magellan is open to children who have completed kindergarten through age seventeen, runs daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is scheduled in one week sessions from June 8 through August 21.

Strong4life Kids Camp is open to kids ages nine through seventeen. With a focus on healthy living, this camp addresses the multitude of ways children can achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

"It's a complete approach to healthy living," says Boblett. "We're teaching kids how to eat well and be active. They work in our community garden and learn how food grows. They learn how to create healthy snacks and meals with hands on cooking classes. We teach them about how healthy foods help their bodies feel better, run faster and grow stronger."

Strong4life campers also swim at least three times a week and explore the outdoors through daily activities and weekly field trips. Strong4life runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is offered every other week, beginning on June 15, through the week of August 10.

For more information about summer camps contact
Rebecca Boblett at or go to


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