By Elizabeth Sias
Kids in the Cambridge community will be able to swim, fish, kayak, play sports and board games, make crafts, listen to music, go horseback riding and go for a pontoon ride all in one afternoon this summer. And it won’t cost a penny.
A group of community members are hosting a free community day camp for children to be held on Lake Fannie for eight sessions this summer.
The camp, called Kids at the Beach Outreach (KABO), started last year after a simple idea became reality. A group of people who meet once a week to pray for Cambridge started talking about what they did during the summer when they were kids.
One organizer, Kitty Shipshock, mentioned how she used to hop on her bike and go to the creek for a swim and realized there are no longer many inexpensive options for summer activities. She then said her church, Chadashchay Ministry (Lakeside Church), has a beach and a playground and wondered if they could open it up for kids. One thing led to another, and soon enough, kids were laughing and playing in a safe environment free of charge.
“It was one of those off-the-top-of-your-head things and we thought we would forget it, but nobody forgot it,” Shipshock said. “It was about providing a safe place for the kids.”
Last summer, Kids on the Beach was held for four sessions with about 30 volunteers helping and 115 kids attending. They’re expanding this year, holding a total of eight sessions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from July 12 to Aug. 3, from noon to 4:30 p.m.
The day camp offers a swimming beach with certified lifeguards, arts and crafts, fishing, pontoon rides, kayak lessons, organized games and sports, music, story time, a playground and more. The group also provides a free lunch and snack to each camper.
To expand this year, organizer Ellen Fordahl said they’re planning rainy day activities like karaoke and musical performances, and they hope to have more community involvement, both with volunteers and kids attending. Open Range Cowboy Church is also bringing out horses one day for horseback riding.
The camp was run for four sessions last summer for under $800, and they’re able to offer it for free because several churches, companies and community members donated services, time or money to make it possible.
“It was an old fashioned barn raising,” Shipshock said. “Everybody came together and gave what they could.”
For instance, she explained, Shalom Shop helped feed the children with a lunch program, while companies including Granger and Newton Financial, Walmart, McDonald’s, Taco John’s and Curves gave donations, and individuals donated the fishing rods and worms.
The group represents at least seven churches and Shipshock said any other churches or individuals are welcome to provide activities.
“We’re not out to be a particularly religious operation, but we’re not shy about saying we’re a Christian organization because that’s where it stemmed from, but our point is to love the children and provide a safe place for kids to be,” she said. “We had enough adult supervision that kids could go from one activity to another when they wanted to.”
According to reports from the children, KABO has already reached its goal.
“We get good reports from the children that were there — they had a blast,” Shipshock said. “Our goal for the summer was to have kids have fun in a safe and loving environment.”
Kids at the Beach Outreach is open for children ages 6 to 12. They are welcome to attend the day camp for as many days as they’d like, whether it’s one session or all eight. Preschoolers up to age 6 can come if they have a parent or guardian with them, and anyone 13 and over is welcome to volunteer.
For more information or to register, visit www.kidsatthebeach.org. Children can also register to attend any day of a camp session. The Lakeside Church property for the day camp is located three miles east of Cambridge just off Highway 95.
“Our hopes are that we can be a service to our community,” Shipshock said. “We just want to be an outreach and say here we are and here’s a place where we can all get together without ulterior motives other than to see that kids fish and swim and have a good time.”