The YMCA of Southern Maine - Northern York County Branch campus in Biddeford is hosting Camp Sokokis for children throughout the summer and it's an event that families wait all year for.
A day camp for ages 5 to 12 (Leader-in-Training program for ages 13- to 15-years-old), Camp Sokokis focuses on a non-competitive, safe environment to develop skills and build character for campers. The camp honors the Y principles of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility.
Camp Sokokis features a rock wall, ropes course, archery ranges, two sports fields, outdoor amphitheater, sand volleyball court, and hiking trails. Additionally, there are three lodges for group activities and a swimming pool.
Camp includes group activities in sports, fine arts, performing arts, and nature or climbing and archery skills, plus singing songs, sharing achievements, and discussing the Value of the Day.
To continue children’s development, there are weekly swim lessons to build confidence and water safety, a daily reading time, and weekly STEM activities.
Branch Executive at the Y's Northern York County branch Kate Noonan said the careers in STEM are projected to grow 17 percent over the next few years.
“Our weekly STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities are designed to help campers develop strong problem-solving and decision-making skills,” said Noonan. “These skills will serve them well in the classroom and throughout their lives.”
Additionally, the program is a participant in the Summer Food Program where all campers are given a healthy snack each day. At camp, healthy living and exercise is highlighted, along with accountability for one’s behavior.
Each week the camp has a unique theme with specific lessons in mind, including a field trip to enhance the learning experience. Activities help the kids learn about themselves, develop confidence and independence, and become good citizens of the world.
Themes include Once Upon a Y, Aloha World, Stars & Stripes, Wildlife week, Raiders of the Lost Values, Sokokis State Fair, H20 Yeah, Lights Camera Action, Thingamagic Invention Convention, A Wrinkle in Time and Game of Sokokis.
The YMCA camps play a critical role in the development of youth, with the aim to to provide children a positive developmental experience through making new friends, building confidence, and growing in self-reliance.
In parent surveys, 95 percent of kids make new friends, 86 percent of kids are open to new experiences, and 88 percent of kids built confidence because of their Camp Sokokis experience.
Programs such as Camp Sokokis are important for children due to a phenomenon called “Summer Slide.” Researchers have found that children, particularly from lower-income families, lose months of academic learning over the summer.
A study at Johns Hopkins University found that most youth lose about two months equivalent of math knowledge along with a loss in an additional two months in reading achievement for low-income youth. Children in higher-income families can make small improvements in reading skills.
Having access to summer camp programs is a cause, with 4 percent of low-income youth attending camp versus 18 percent of high-income youth.
Additionally, research shows there is a risk of weight gain over the summer for children. In Maine alone, 28.2 percent of children are overweight or obese.
Camp Sokokis plays a critical role in getting kids moving, healthy, and learning, not just in the summer, but throughout the year, by teaching them good habits. The program also focuses on child development by continuing their learning and partaking in physical activities.
Helen Breña, CEO of YMCA of Southern Maine, says camp provides a variety of opportunities to ensure that youth are learning and being physically active in the summer.
“Campers learn how to be responsible and resourceful, work in groups, solve problems, and make decisions that will help them grow as individuals—all while having fun and feeling like they belong,” said Breña. “We want every camper to start school telling their friends that they had the best summer ever.”
Camp Sokokis is only one of the summer programs held by the YMCA. The program runs from June through Aug. 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is additional care for no extra cost for parents who need a safe place for children outside of normal camp hours.
Camp is $215 per session for each child with a $50 deposit due at registration. For attending more than seven weeks of camp or more than one child attending camp, discounts are available.
Extensive income-based financial assistance is available for those in need to ensure every child has the same opportunity through camp.