Stafford Township Recreation Gears Up for 35th Summer Camp

Mar 27, 2019
Courtesy of: Stafford Township Recreation Stafford Township Summer Camp staffers gather for a fun moment during a "Wacky Wednesday" 80s Flashback-themed day last year. This summer will mark the 35th time Stafford Recreation has offered its camp.

Jason Hazelton remembers what the Stafford Township Recreation Summer Camp was like when he was a kid back in the 1980s.

“Back then, camp was the same for everybody,” said Hazelton, now the one who oversees its operation every summer. “We went on a trip here and there, or over to the Ocean Acres pool, but we traveled in a pack – everybody was always in the same place doing the same things.

“What we’ve done over the last 15 years or so is develop summer camp into an a-la-carte program, so kids can choose the things they’re most interested in. Now, it’s sort of like a restaurant menu. You can pick and choose what you want and what works for you and your schedule.”

This year marks the 35th edition of Stafford Summer Camp – “Where adventures begin and memories are made,” according to the official literature – and Hazelton said a few additions and tweaks have been made to this year’s “menu.”

For starters, a new specialty yoga camp for the K-6 age group will be available for one of the program’s seven weeks. A trip camp to the new miniature golf course, Jen’s Links, set to open this spring in Barnegat Light, also is an addition to the lineup, as is a new specialty camp for lacrosse enthusiasts. And then there’s the specialty cooking camp – it now will be featured during two weeks instead of one, as it has been in recent years.

“We’re also providing reusable water bottles for every child, which will be included in the cost of camp,” Hazelton said. “In the past, we’d have water jugs on site and kids would get drinks using plastic cups, and at the end of the day a million plastic cups would get thrown away. We wanted to cut down on the plastics going to the landfills.”

Starting July 1 and running through Aug. 16, Stafford Recreation will offer the following:

• Day Camp at Ocean Acres Community Center for children ages 5-12, or grades K-6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, and featuring games, organized activities, arts and crafts, sports, free play and special guests.

• Preschool Day Camp at Ocean Acres Community Center for children ages 3-4 (must be potty trained), from 9:30 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday, and featuring music, story time, arts and crafts and a variety of other activities.

• Trip Camp for children grades K-6, through which campers go on exciting day trips throughout the tri-state area, including New York City museums and cruises, peach picking at Johnson’s Farm, various water parks and attractions, baseball games and more.

• Specialty Camp for youngsters grades K-8, which include an extensive range of programs such as Marine Science, Kids in the Kitchen, Bike Riding and Safety, and Youth Police Academy.

While parents can choose as few or as many programs for their children as they desire, all activities must be chosen and scheduled in advance. Stafford Summer Camp is not a drop-in program and there is no before- or aftercare available.

“If a kid wants to do our Marine Science Camp for one week and be a part of our Day Camp for three weeks, that’s fine,” said Hazelton, who said the program averaged some 500 kids per week last year and had an enrollment of about 1,000 for the summer, noting that many youngsters attend multiple camps. “But if a kid just wants to go on two of our Day Camp trips, that’s OK, too. There are no minimums or maximums for how a child is involved.”

Day Camp is priced at $25 per day, while Preschool Camp is $20 per day. Specialty Camps vary in price, and Trip Camp is priced individually depending on duration and location, but typically range from $25 to $100 per trip.

Day Camp also features “Wacky Wednesday” themes each week – last year’s camp included campers and staff dressed up for an “’80s Flashback Day,” a “Dr. Seuss Day” and a “Pirates and Princesses Day,” among others.

Registration will take place on Wednesday, April 10, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Ocean Acres Community Center, and Hazelton says this is the “prime time to sign up” because Stafford Recreation offers what he’s dubbed the “Early Bird 10-10-10 Special.” Not only will those registering be required to prepay just 10 percent  of the total camp cost rather than the standard 50 percent, but anybody registering for 10 days of Day Camp will receive an additional camp day free, and a 10 percent discount on additional children being registered.

The second and final registration period is scheduled for Saturday, May 4, from noon to 2 p.m. at the annual Touch-A-Truck event at Manahawkin Lake Park. However, parents registering their children during this event will be required to pay the standard 50 percent upfront fee to secure their camp spots.

Stafford Summer Camp is available to all children, but out-of-town residents are charged an additional 10 percent fee on top of the total. Discounts do not apply to Specialty Camps.

For all camp information, including the full listing of trips and specialty camps, along with registration forms, visit staffordnj.gov starting Sunday, March 31. Hazelton recommends printing out registration forms and filling out as much as possible prior to arriving for registration. Of course, registration forms also will be on hand the day of registration, and registration can be done only in person – registration cannot be done by mail.

For questions, contact Hazelton by phone at 609-597-1000, extension 8578, or by email at jhazelton@staffordnj.gov.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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