Camp wraps up after another ‘unique’ summer

August 6, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

When COVID came to town in 2020, summer camp changed noticeably. A schedule that used to include three field trips a week to places like ice skating rinks, professional sports games, arcades and amusement parks was altered to include in-camp festivities only. While this year was also a “stay-at-camp” summer, Camp Director Khoreen Vetter had been working since November of last year to find some of the best activities, entertainment and learning experiences around. While some were easy to book, others took a bit more creativity to pull together.

“The logistics may take work, but overall I like to joke that I am just a giant kid myself, so I focus on programs that sound fun to me,” Vetter said. “It turns out that’s what the kids like as well. We will be bringing a few back next year and may use some for different programs at the community center.”

This was Vetter’s first year as camp director, with a little help from Coach DJ Keisling and others. The number of campers is still a bit lower than it used to be, averaging about 25 elementary-school-aged children a day. This is due to COVID regulations, not a lack of interest. There is almost always a waiting list for this traditional summer day camp.

 When asked what some of the more popular programs were across the board, for boys and girls, young and old alike, Vetter said the Polynesian dancers and laser tag seemed to be two favorites. Archery and kayaking were very well-received, too. There were also trained dogs, yoga, storytelling and much more. It was a well-rounded summer of activities, to say the least.

“Having the animals in the science/craft room was a huge success as well,” Vetter said. “The kids seemed to love caring for and getting to know each animal.”

Vetter was referring to her personal menagerie, which included a curly-haired tarantula, a few friendly snakes, lizards, turtles, even two scorpions. Helping kids feel comfortable with some of the more feared and “creepy” animals in nature establishes a kinship, as well as an education, beyond the normal scope of dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, etc.

Overall, Vetter said she thought the 2021 summer camp experience was a huge success, a success that would not have been achieved without the help of many organizations and individuals. 

“Watching the campers get to try and experience new things, gain confidence and lose fear was an incredible thing to witness,” she said. “Getting to know last year’s campers better and meet some new campers this year was also a great time. Again, I’m kind of a big kid myself, so I thoroughly enjoy spending time with the campers. It was a fulfilling and fun summer.”

Vetter said that she, as well as the Lee County Parks & Recreation summer camp staff, wanted to thank their financial sponsors – The Boca Grande Woman’s Club, Friends of the Boca Grande Community Center, Royal Palm Players, the Boca Grande Art Alliance and Gasparilla Island Kids’ Classic. A big thank you goes to Boca Bay, Gasparilla Adventures, Whidden’s Marina, Boca Grande Marina, the Boca Grande Fire Department, Robert Vetter and, last but not least, the incredible Parks and Recreation staff that worked tirelessly to execute camps daily activities: Joe Wier, DJ Keisling, Brittany Trivelli, Jesse Kanuch, Dan Kacynski, Tim Bonisolli, and Anthony Michaud.