Farmington Youth Assistance brings summer camp to doorsteps with new program

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published July 21, 2020

 Farmington residents Alexander, 8, and Cameron Erickson, 6, play a water-based activity from their Farmington Youth Assistance Family camp in a box set in their backyard.

Farmington residents Alexander, 8, and Cameron Erickson, 6, play a water-based activity from their Farmington Youth Assistance Family camp in a box set in their backyard.

Photo provided by Jessica Erickson

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FARMINGTON/HILLS  — Summer for local kids this year may be a little less exciting than it has been in the past.

With summer camps canceled through June, and only working with limited capacities July-August, the opportunity for many kids in the community to be involved in camp was thrown out the window when COVID-19 arrived.

Farmington Youth Assistance wanted to change that, so they packed up a bunch of toys, games and supplies and put camp in a box this year for kids to play at home.

“Kids have been kind of trapped in the house,” said Sunday Taylor, Farmington Youth Assistance’s immediate past chair. “They weren’t running errands. They weren’t going to school. They weren’t seeing their friends. We wanted to really support families by providing opportunities for them to connect and play together.”

Taylor added that, as many parents have “used up their bag of tricks,” the camp in a box program would hopefully provide parents with a way to keep their children entertained, engaged and educated.

Farmington parent Jessica Erickson said the program has done just that for her family.

“It gave us something new and different to focus on and do together, other than chores or errands or things that felt forced. This is so much more fun and out of the box, because I have completely run out of ideas on how to keep these guys engaged and doing things,” she said of her two boys, Alexander, 8, and Cameron, 6. “It’s nice to have and have it structured. … It’s definitely forced us to do things we wouldn’t have been doing.

“I didn’t know all the fun things you could do with a pool noodle,” she laughed.

With two daughters in middle school who had planned to go away to summer camps, plus her two boys, Erickson was already looking for something for her children to do to fill the void.

“It’s been amazing and a blessing, because with online schooling and everything, the kids are spending way too much time on screens. It’s nice to give them something fun to look forward to that doesn’t involve sitting on a screen. They’ve been having a ball with it,” she said.

The camp boxes were picked up by families the morning of July 13. Taylor said roughly 100 families participated in the program during its inaugural year, which equates to about 180 children. There were six families still on a waitlist to receive their camp boxes at press time. Camp boxes cost $25.

The camp boxes were meant to mirror four weeks’ worth of day camp activities, and included four or five activities per day. Activities were in line with the theme of each week — week one was explorer week; week two was space week; week three was wacky Olympics week; and week four was travelers week. Activity instructions were provided in an online format as well as printed out.

“My favorite activity is these glow wiffle balls. You put glow sticks in wiffle balls, and there’s games around that,” Taylor said.

Erickson said the “Minute to Win It”-style games, based on the popular TV game show, as well as some of the gymnastics activities have filled the gaps of what her sons would have learned from camp activities. Only one activity so far — flag drawing — Erickson’s family has skipped, because her sons didn’t have much interest in it, she said.

While Taylor said supplies are pretty much depleted for this year — she could take possibly five-10 more families, maximum — Farmington Youth Assistance has considered bringing the program back next year, especially with the uncertainty due to COVID-19.

“It’s definitely not off the table, and I would assume if we do it next year, we’ll add campfire songs or something. Obviously, if we did it next year, we’d be able to assess what we did this year and add or subtract as necessary. … It depends on the response (this year),” Taylor said, adding that the program brought in several families who don’t normally participate in or utilize the Farmington Youth Assistance programs.

Erickson believes the program should and could continue, even without a pandemic.

“Even with the unknown of everything, summer camp was never something in my budget with four kids. This is very doable,” she said. “I even donated a little extra money because there was so much time, effort and money put into it. I thought it was amazing. I could for sure see this being successful in the years to come, even without a pandemic.”

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