Summer camp horror story #2: Day camp site closes!
In the spring, me and my fellow Mommas were telling all of you out there to plan early for summer camps. The best camps go fast. Figure out your plan now. Get your kids into camps. Turns out nothing could have prepared me for this: The site of a camp I signed my sons up for in August just closed.
St. Petersburg parents are quite familiar with Game On off First Avenue N and 38th Street. The place was great for two reasons: If you had younger kids and tweens in your family, they all could find something to do because the place had inflatables, laser tag and video games. We attended many a party there and the folks who ran the place were always nice and attentive. But by last Saturday, it was closed. A friend who was out of town came back to find a message about the closure. She would have to move her son's birthday party that was scheduled -- for this week! She got a refund and moved fast to reschedule her son's party. But it was a lot of work notifying the guests and changing everything on such short notice.
And my good friend Sharon has sons in a city program that had lined up "Game On Mondays" as a field trip. Each week, one group of kids would get to go there for an afternoon of laser tag and pizza. They are giving parents a credit, but the kids are bummed.
Back to my problem: I spoke with Heidi Sutton, who runs St. Pete KidzArt, the camp that was going to be at Game On. She said that she is desperately trying to find a spot to have the camps. She's been calling recreation centers and schools but with no luck so far. And if she doesn't find a place by the end of this month, she says she will probably have to cancel the July camps. She is holding out some hope that maybe she can find a space for the August camps but she knows it's a long shot.
Sutton, whose summer camp was a fun one for my kids last year, says that as the mother of a 5 year old, she is finding that many camps are still open. It's true because I am still getting emails and calls about camps that have slots. My friend Jennifer said that she usually tries to get her kids into camps early in the spring. But this year she waited until the last minute and still got her son and daughter into the camps they wanted. Indeed, this story said that camps in St. Petersburg were getting fewer kids than usual.
Here is the long list of camps that we posted in March. There are probably still openings at some of these. And Sutton has a camp that she runs at Planet Jump in Largo and she wants to accommodate families that might be displaced by the St. Petersburg site closure. But she realizes that Largo might be a haul for parents in St. Petersburg.
It's the economy, Sutton says. Even her camps, which usually would have 25 or more kids each session, have had about 15-20 kids this year, she said. "Until this economy turns around, lots of camps will be feeling the pinch,'' she said. And the domino effect: Sutton used to run this same summer camp at the Ultimate Party and Play Zone in St. Petersburg, an indoor inflatables bounce house, which also closed. Then she went to Game On. Now she is wondering where she will go. She hopes that some of the schools that she operates classes in throughout the year will be open to a summer deal.
So, it's a good thing to plan ahead. But in this day and age, it seems like you need a back-up plan to make things work. I think I'll be checking in with my parents to see what they are doing that week.
-- Sherry Robinson