Make Friends, Build Memories at YMCA Summer Camps

How many days until summer camp starts? Make your kids' dreams come true by registering them for YMCA summer camp.

Summertime is camp time for Jennifer Gordon’s two kids. It’s when they head to YMCA’s Camp Ohiyesa in Holly for immersive fun in a traditional, residential camp setting. “It’s everything you see in a movie of what a summer camp is,” Gordon says. “Horseback riding, canoeing, archery, nature walks, zipline … and no electronics.”

For 13-year-old Abby and 11-year-old Quinn, both seasoned YMCA campers, Camp Ohiyesa is a place to make friends from all over metro Detroit — and to see them again year after year. But what truly makes YMCA camp experiences special is the quality of staff, Gordon says. “The staff and counselors are unbelievable. They’re kind and caring and great with kids and they truly want to be there.”

Summer camp is good for your child

Spending the summer at Camp Ohiyesa or its Up North cousin, YMCA’s Camp Nissokone in Oscoda, isn’t just a way to pass time while school’s out and parents are at work. It’s good for kids’ future lives, says Ryan Mertz, executive director of YMCA camping services of YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. Being surrounded by positive role models and gaining the encouragement of peers is imperative to kids’ mental and physical health.

“Overnight camp is really an excellent opportunity for youth development and for building lifelong friendships, more so than any other youth development program,” Mertz says. “Kids build independence and self-confidence along with social skills when they just have that time to be open and honest in shared spaces with peers.”

Both Camp Nissokone and Camp Ohiyesa overnight camps are appropriate for kids entering third grade, or age 8, to about 17 years old, and Camp Ohiyesa has long been the young camper’s first experience away from home, Mertz says. “It’s a very rural, farmland setting with a variety of ecosystems. There’s a wetland environment with a lake and bogs, and rolling fields and forests,” he says. Camp Nissokone offers programs rich in aquatics like sailing, waterskiing and wakeboarding. “Campers take canoe trips on the Au Sable River or go hiking overnight in the Huron Manistee National Forest,” he says. Both camps have 11 weeks of robust day camp programs, too, for kids as young as those entering kindergarten, or age 5.

Day camp fun at a Y close to home

From mid-June to early September, week-long day camps at local YMCAs in metro Detroit will be the place for fun this summer. In addition to the wildly popular Wacky Water and Olympics themes, campers will dive into Mad Science, Wild Exploration, Galactic Adventures, Time Travel and so much more. Camps will be held at Birmingham, Boll, Carls, Downriver, Farmington, Macomb, South Oakland and Plymouth YMCA locations. Registration opens March 1 for kids ages 3 through 17.

Each day, kids will participate in physical activities, group games, crafts and age-appropriate fun. “We even sneak some academic pieces into each camp, with STEM and literacy activities,” says Abigail Sacco, executive director of afterschool and day camp at YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. “The best part about our camps is they are so well-rounded. There’s a bit of everything, plus kids have the opportunity to make new friends, get to know their counselors and try things they wouldn’t normally get to try. We’re giving kids the time to use their imaginations, and it’s so important.”

Camps are safe

In partnership with the American Camp Association, YMCA consulted with infectious disease experts to operate the safest summer camps — both residential and day camps — so parents can rest assured their kids are safe. Strict safety procedures, including masks, wellness checks and physical distancing where necessary, are followed. At residential camps, reduced cabin capacities, increased airflow and upgraded air filtration are in place. Day camps follow all CDC and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus guidelines.

“The safety of our campers and staff will always be our No.1 priority. We’re looking forward to being able to welcome campers as we open safely again this summer,” Mertz says.

Start summer camp experiences early by attending Spring Break Camp, March 29-April 3. Registration opens March 1, 2021 for 3-day and 5-day enrollment. YMCA members receive discounted pricing for resident camp, day camp and family camp.

Learn how your kids can make every day better this summer with the YMCA. Discover YMCA camp experiences and register at

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.


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