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Sanibel Rec Center works to give traditional summer camp experience

By Staff | Jul 2, 2009

Some remember the sheer joy of jumping in lakes on hot summer days and trying to swim faster than their friends. Others can’t help but snicker about the paper mache masterpieces they created during rainy days. And still there are some who still smile when they think about all of the friends they made during their adventures at summer camp.

Summer camp conjures up different images and memories for folks who have the opportunity to go.

And though there is not an overnight summer camp on the islands the Sanibel Rec Center has created a sort of day camp version.

Day campers can participate in tennis, golf, basketball, clay art, kayaking, daily swimming, beach days, karate and yoga. These activities are in line with the Rec Center’s healthy theme.

“The kids are getting mobile, they’re getting active and they’re getting fit,” said Sanibel Rec Center Program Specialist Dave DeFonzo.

During rainy days and down time, campers have a chance to exercise their creative side and work with specialized instructors, DeFonzo said.

“If you want a little bit of everything, we have it,” De Fonzo said.

And even though numbers are lower this year – a fact attributed to more moms not working and staying home and more folks sending their kids out of state to relatives homes in hopes of giving their kids an away from home experience without the price tag – DeFonzo has a steady crowd of school-age campers.

DeFonzo is the chipper, fearless leader of the summer day camp program at the Rec Center. It is not uncommon to find DeFonzo sporting a bullhorn and directing the campers. A smile seems to be painted on his face while he hustles about the Rec Center.

Aside from the arts and crafts, sports, field trips and guest speakers round out the summer camp. This year’s roster of guest speakers include the popular John Storms and his World of Reptiles. During the program, Storms displays live reptiles, including large snakes and titanic-sized snapping turtles.

Field trips include a day at Generations Roller Rink and the Mote Marine Aquarium in Sarasota.

Campers also get to chow down on pizza from Island Pizza every Friday thanks to the generosity of the Sanibel Captiva Optimist Club. The service-based non-profit group donated $1,000 to make the Friday pizza days possible. Campers must provide their own lunch during the rest of the week.

Between, the activities, guest speakers and field trips little time is left for those famous words “I’m bored.”

“You get a pretty busy day,” DeFonzo said. “Some of the kids don’t want to leave at 5 p.m.

The inclusive Summer Day Camp program at the Rec Center runs Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $85 a week for members and $105 for non-members. There is still some open spots but space is limited.

Scholarships are available and are doled out based on need. Applications are available for scholarships.

The program is available in one week sessions throughout the 10- week summer. Sessions began on June 15th and end on Aug. 21st.

For more information regarding the Summer Day Camp, Recreation Center and / or current membership fees, call the Recreation Department at 472-0345.