WHITINSVILLE - The most popular summer camp week at Camp Whitin is “Design, Build & Destroy.” Camp Director Brett Cerrati is all smiles as he talks about the fun kids have with projects such as egg drops and soda bottle rocket launches.
Other kids will become ”Mad Scientists,” exploring the chemical reactions they get when they mix a little of this with a little of that.
Kids more into the arts, might choose “Lights, Camera...Action!” for doing some role-playing, staging, and set design for their favorite fantasy worlds. Or “the Artist Studio” for creating paintings, jewelry, and pottery.
For nine weeks on any given summer day at the Whitin Community Center (WCC) 120 enthusiastic kids are engaged in activities ranging from sports to educational to just plain fun.
“You'll see 120 moving parts and it seems chaotic, but it's awesome, a lot of fun,” said Brett, who's been the guiding force behind Camp Whitin for the last six years and works on the summer plans all year long. We use every inch of space in the building and spend as much time as we can outside as well.” His philosophy is to get campers away from their game consoles and out into the fresh air. He noted that the park and pavillion next to the “gym” belong to the WCC, and there now are bathrooms in the park for the first time.
Camp Whitin is for fun, fitness, and friendships, said Brett. It's not a skill-based camp for mastering a specific sport or activity. Not that there aren't plenty of sports on the schedule: Dodgeball Madness, Match Point Tennis, Football/Floor Hockey Faceoff, Hoop Dreamz Basketball.
“You'll find things here you won't find anywhere else,” he said. Some new camps this summer include CW Amazing Race and Outside the Box, which “combines MacGyver, James Bond, and Indiana Jones into one incredible week.”
WCC Executive Director Kevin Fusco elaborates: “We try to keep it fresh and relevant. The activities range from as serious as high school community service projects performed by high school students to Superheroes in Training for the younger kids.”
The camp weeks are divided into two groups: half-day camps for kids 4-6 and full-day camps for kids 7-13. There is also a special leadership training camp for teens 14 and 15. Extended care is availabe for the full-day campers.
The campers come from all around the Valley: Northbridge, Uxbridge, Grafton, Millbury, Sutton, Douglas. “Last year we had some come from Charlton and Dudley, as well,” said Brett.
Camp coordinators are local teachers and professionals, each an expert in his or her field. They include Nicole Gantt, a kindergarten teacher at Northbridge Elementary School; Kelly Beahn, from the Millbury School system; Mark Widner, engineer; Michelle Benoit, teacher at Northbridge Middle School; Talia Berkowitz, pre-school teacher at Northbridge Elementary; and Danielle Keane, Sutton PTA president and former teacher. Many of the counselors are former campers now in college.
Staff and counselors all work together to keep an eye on the campers. They are stationed all around the perimeter of the grounds when the campers are outside, so that they can see what each child is doing at every moment.
“Security is always a concern to parents. I understand that,” said Brett. “My own twin five-year old sons will be coming to camp for the first time this summer. I'm a little apprehensive, and so are the boys.”
The camps start on June 23 and end August 22. Kids can come to one or more camps. The early registration price for half-day camps is $85 for WCC members and $110 for non-members. The early registration price for full-day camps is $155 for members and $210 for non-members. Kevin added that there are scholarships available, and applicants should contact the front desk for information.
While some of the camp weeks fill up fast, parents should check even at the last moment if spaces are still available. “Summer plans can change at any time,” said Kevin, “and we try to accommodate parents and campers as much as possible.”
A last question: Do girls participate in the Design, Build & Destroy camp? Yes, said Brett. “About a third of the participants are girls. It gives them an outlet, a chance to get their hair dirty. And sometimes they get to say 'my egg drop worked, and none of the boys' did.'”
You can meet Brett at an Open House scheduled for April 24, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. We guarantee his enthusiasm will rub off. “I love what I do. It's a wonderful place.”
The Whitin Community Center is located at 60 Main Street. The phone number is 508-234-8184. complete Camp Whitin information is available at the WCC or online at www.WhitinCommunityCenter.com.