From Layah to Zara: Why YMCA Summer Camp Is the Summer Hit for Kids!

From field trips to crafts to swimming and friendships that may last a lifetime, YMCA summer day camp is the place for endless summer fun.

Layah Savage has great memories from her elementary school summers. Each morning when parents Ayanna and Leslie Savage went to work in downtown Detroit, Layah had her own “job” to do: have fun as a summer day camper at the Boll Family YMCA.

Now that she’s a 20-year-old college student at the University of Michigan in Dearborn, Layah says her YMCA summer camp experiences taught her so many skills she uses every day.

Among the crafts, field trips and other fun things to do, Layah loved meeting people and making friends. With just the right blend of activities and downtime, Layah says there was plenty of time to forge friendships.

“There was no pressure and that’s the fun part about camp,” she says. “There was a little group of people I would hang around with. I still know those people to this day.” As an only child, Layah loved building relationships with peers, as well as interacting with counselors and directors.

As Layah reached middle school, she also attended YMCA specialty summer camps and loved working on projects in media camp, where she learned how to work effectively with others, even if they didn’t always agree. “We had projects each week, maybe to take photos and present a bird’s eye view, and we didn’t always agree about the best way to do it,” she recalls. “This gave me a pre-sense of what working with others could look like in college.”

Even though Layah met people and made friends through other academic-based summer camps, these felt more like school to her — with many of the pressures that school provides. “YMCA summer camp is fun because you get to be creative and explore your personality a little bit, and there were a lot of different people,” she says.

Swimming is a big part of YMCA summer camp

A highlight of YMCA summer camp was the chance to swim and that is a big deal to the family, says Layah’s dad, Leslie. “There’s always a debate in our household about who is the best swimmer,” he says. “Layah, at one point, was swimming every day, so it was her.”

Not many programs offer the full summer camp experience for kids, says Leslie. The Y offered a quality summer camp program located within walking distance to their office downtown, plus enrichment, field trips and, of course, swimming. All this made YMCA summer day camp an easy decision for the family — back then and now.

It’s Zara’s turn for YMCA summer day camp!

Layah’s sister Zara is now a happy YMCA summer day camper and she has a lot to say about the fun she has at camp. 

“The first day I was nervous, but I got to know everyone and they all liked me. No one bullies you and you make a lot of friends and there are a lot of activities and art classes where you can make crafts,” says Zara, 7, with confidence. 

Today, Zara might just claim the “Best Swimmer in the Family” title, since she too has the benefit of swimming at Y camp.

 “The first time I went to swim, I was terrified because I never went swimming before. But the first day, I realized I have to encourage myself to try it, and then swimming became one of my favorite activities. Now I encourage others to get in the pool.”

For the field trips (riding the People Mover is a personal favorite), visits to the parks and playgrounds, crafts, swimming and making lots of friends, Zara recommends Y summer camp to kids and their parents. 

“I think that opportunity will make your lives better,” she says.

Learn more about YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit’s summer camp programs across metro Detroit. Visit ymcadetroit.org.

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