SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– Staff members at YMAC’s Camp Leif Ericson are hard at work preparing for their upcoming summer camps.
This year, the camp will be operating at full capacity, after offering limited spots last year.
Mike Murphy, the Camp Director, said they have 3,100 children already signed up for the camps, but there are still some openings for registration.
“We are really glad to have all those campers back out this summer to join us,” Murphy said.
Rebecca Hiigel, the 8 and 9 year old Director, said she is excited for having more kids at camp this year.
“We ran last number summer with diminished enrollment, to you know, keep COVID safe, and so we are back to a bigger enrollment this summer so it will be nice to have bigger groups, lots more kids can experience camp,” Hiigel said. “I’m also just excited to share the magic of camp with a lot more kids that get to come this summer.”
Camp Leif Ericson is a YMCA summer camp, serving children ages 4 to 15, Murphy said. The camp offers five two-week long programs where campers get a chance to do “everything you would ever imagine in a summer camp setting.”
There are a variety of activities for kids to participate in during their time at camp, Hiigel said, varying depending on their age. These include participating in music, learning about nature, playing sports, going on field trips and a variety of different outdoor activities that “get the kids to appreciate nature around them and have fun out in the sun instead of being on their phone.”
As they get older, they added additional activities, such as sling shots and competitions, she said.
There are 110 camp staff members this summer, who have been participating in a four day training session to prepare for the first set of campers, who will be arriving on Monday. Last year, they only had around 60 staff members.
Camp this year will still be a little different than a typical year, Murphy said.
The camp primarily operates as a day camp, during a typical year, however, campers would have the chance to spend the night, but they will not be offering that this year, Murphy said.
“There’s going to be a lot of hand washing, which is great for those kids,” he said. “We will take some spacing precautions as well, and then our staff are also taking some additional precautions, such as masks when they are in close proximity with the campers as well.”
The camp will return to some of their field trips as well, Murphy said, such as going to Wall Lake and Wild Water West.
“We are definitely back to more of a normal experience for our campers this summer,” he said.
Each of those two week camps provides kids with a similar experience, Murphy said.
“The great thing there is you can sign up for any one of those sessions and your camper is going to get a very similar experience,” he said.
Murphy said they have already had campers coming our to visit, because they are so excited and they wanted to come and see camp a little bit early.
“It’s really exciting to see those campers being so excited to come back to camp this year,” he said.
Campers come from surrounding areas, as well as around the country, Murphy said.
“We get a lot of campers who come to stay with grandparents or family,” Murphy said. “Typically we will see upwards of 15 to 20 different states represented at camp each summer.”
Murphy said his favorite part of camp is “seeing the magic on those campers faces.”
“When they get here and they get off the bus, you can just see their eyes light up and to get them to see, you know, experience so many great things right here, really in the middle of Sioux Falls but you wouldn’t even guess it because you’re out in nature,” he said. “It’s just great for those campers.”
The best part of camp for Hiigel is “how excited the campers are when they get here.”
‘There’s nothing like the first day of everybody piling off the buses,” Hiigel said. “The kids are so excited to be at such an awesome place, so seeing them happy and making them excited about things here is defiantly the best part.”
Hiigel has been on Leif Ericson staff for five years.
“We all kind of have this phrase that we say at camp that ‘camp is a place like no other.’ The people that work here are wonderful, the campers that come here are wonderful,” Hiigel said. “It just honestly is a magical place. Everybody is always so dedicated and loves their job and it’s just fun to be surrounded by people that, not only care about camp and care about camp continuing, but that really care about the kids that come here as well.”