Metro Detroit mom Julie Luark says she knows her son enjoys attending Oakland Yard Athletics’ summer camp program, partly because he comes home each evening tired and satisfied.
“He spends the whole day playing, running around and doing all the activities he loves,” she says. “Oakland Yard Athletics is really my son’s summer happy place.”
That’s a strong endorsement and a sign that Oakland Yard’s summer camp experience is a great fit for Luark’s 11-year-old son. “I love that I can drop him off before I go to work, even before camp starts. The counselors are there and there’s a fun vibe. I tell everyone that I want to stay, too!”
Healthy and fun
Luark’s experience with Oakland Yard Athletics started when her son was just 4, with Saturday soccer.
“It was his first organized sport. We fell in love with the place right then and there,” she says. “His coach was Philip and what I really liked was his rapport with the kids. He learned all of their names right away and taught them the basics of the sport, even though the kids were too young to play actual games. My son still uses the basics he learned, even today.”
Luark says she was intrigued by Oakland Yard’s summer camp but waited until her son was closer to 9 to attend camp. This year will be his third year and Luark says she couldn’t be happier with the experience.
“It’s so positive for him, and I love that camp is mostly outside. The sun is shining and it’s great for any kid who is active and doesn’t need to be on a screen all day during the summer,” she says.
At camp, kids ages 5-13 are grouped by age and are led by a camp counselor who is an older high school student or a younger college student. “The counselors are really good. They’re fun and engaged and know your child’s name. They make it a really fun experience,” Luark says.
The whole camp is managed by teachers “who bring a lot of experience into the mix,” she says.
Variety, balance, flexibility
While Luark spends her summer weekdays at work, her son dives into sports, crafts, magic shows, card games, reptile shows, barbecues, the volleyball sand pit, and just having social time and summer camp fun with his friends — all free of electronic devices.
Most Fridays include a Nerf water gun activity, which is always a favorite of campers, Luark says. And, there’s a slip-n-slide that kids always have access to. “The younger kids really gravitate to it,” Luark says.
The camp offers a great balance between structured activities and free time, making sure all campers are engaged and involved.
A highlight of the experience is the covered eating area that has a beverage station stocked with water, lemonade and punch, where Luark says her son feels very grown up going to the “bar” to have his water bottle filled.
“Another great thing is that because of Oakland Yard’s location and because there aren’t many summer camps like it in the area, it draws kids from all different school districts and private and parochial schools. My son meets kids he won’t come into contact with otherwise,” Luark says, adding that the camp’s flexibility means she can register for just the weeks she knows her family will be in town over the summer.
“It’s not a whole summer commitment where you have to choose your weeks off ahead of time. They allow you to pay for one week at a time, full day or half day, so there’s lots of freedom to plan your summer,” she says.
Oakland Yard Athletics opportunities
Rather than aging kids out of summer camp at 12, Oakland Yard Athletics offers a counselor-in-training program that Luark says she’s discussing with her own son. She loves the leadership practice that will come with this experience.
“I’ve already planted the seed that this is what he will be doing,” she says. “He’s good with other kids and he knows the counselors so we have our eye on that. It’s something to work toward.”
When the time comes, though, Luark says her son will interview and stand on his own two feet. “It really reminds me of the Montessori philosophy where kids are grouped together and are either teaching or learning from each other. It’s a great vibe that I see at this camp.”
Does Luark recommend trying Oakland Yard Athletics summer camp? Yes she does!
“The outdoor time at this camp really sets it apart from other summer camps I’ve seen. It’s a genuine opportunity for a true summer camp experience,” she says. “The schedule is flexible, there’s before- and after-care and great staff that know how to engage kids. I’ve got our summer plans all booked up already and Oakland Yard Athletics camp is a big part of my plans.”
Now celebrating its 29th year, Oakland Yard Athletics in Waterford offers week-long half-day and full-day summer camps for kids 5-13. From June 19 to Aug. 14, 2023, kids can engage in sports, arts, science — even slip-n-slide — in a safe and fun environment. Learn more and register your child at oaklandyard.com.