By Shawna Carpentier—
It’s often said that the best things in life are free.
Kids at the Beach Outreach, a nonprofit in Cambridge, embraces that philosophy. The organization is set to host a free community day camp starting July 9. The day camp will operate every Tuesday and Wednesday over the course of four weeks ending on July 31.
“We want to be a service to the community, so if you’re a mom that wants to be with your kid and play in the water, or a dad, we encourage that,” Kitty Shipshock said.
Shipshock inspired the start of the organization for its first year of camp in the summer of 2010 after a prayer meeting exposed a lack of free enrichment opportunities for youth in the community.
“I said, well, we have a beach and we have a playground; let’s open it up. And it just grew from there,” explained Shipshock, a retired teacher.
A variety of beach and outdoor activities are offered for children ages 6-12. Activities will include kayaking, paddle boating, catch-and-release fishing, craft activities and games.
The organization is a collaboration of local faith leaders, and a daily Bible story is shared.
“We have a group of Christian people who want you to know God is real, God loves you, and it’s not about learning everything,” Shipshock said.
“It’s about being taken care of and having a good time,” she added.
The camp is held at two beaches at Lakeside Christian Church, located on Lake Fanny, and offers the only lifeguard-staffed beaches in Isanti County. The camp also staffs a nurse and adult volunteers, who provide supervision of the children and camp activities. Parents are not required to stay with their children during the camp.
Last year the camp had about 250 children per week and 540 children through the duration of the camp. The numbers have increased each year, and organizers expect this year will be no different.
The organization knows increasing numbers also means the need for more volunteers.
“We are open to people who want to serve the kids and have good ideas. We are always looking for volunteers,” Shipshock said.
Volunteers ages 13-17 can be accepted. Volunteers 18 and older must undergo a background check, provided courtesy of the organization.
The camp has been supported by local businesses, and it could use more support to replace items like broken fishing poles and provide other equipment like an enclosed tent for art projects and other opportunities for the children. Any donations of water toys, food and beverages, or gasoline for the camp pontoon are welcomed.
“Kids playing in the mud, catching frogs, walking through the grass is not something that can happen in a pool; it’s an experience that they don’t get,” said Shipshock.
Day camp begins at noon with lunch and ends at 4:30 p.m. Children are encouraged to bring their swimsuits, a T-shirt, flip-flops or tennis shoes, a towel and sunscreen.
To learn more or to preregister, visit www.kidsatthebeach.org.