Summer camp extends affordable fun: Six weeks of activities planned for St. John Parish children

Published 12:02 am Saturday, May 26, 2018

LAPLACE — Originally stationed at Regala Park in Reserve, St. John the Baptist Parish’s annual summer camp has grown to include more than 150 participants, necessitating use of local schools for a variety of athletic, educational and leisure activities.

Summer camp is held at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary for East Bank participants and at West St. John Elementary for West Bank campers, according to coordinator Debra Poche, assistant director of parks and recreation.

Open to children ages 4 to 12, the six-week camp runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday from June 11 to July 19. A $150 registration fee covers the duration of the camp and includes daily lunches, Poche said.

“I think the fact that the camp has grown speaks for itself,” Poche said. “Parents like that they can rely on us to keep their children safe,” Poche said. “We’ve formed a partnership with the community, and everyone has come to look forward to it.”

Hosted at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary and West St. John Elementary, St. John the Baptist Parish’s annual summer camp offers a number of activities to local youth, including friendly competition in team sports, arts and crafts, swimming, miniature golf, horseshoes, dance lessons and numerous field trips.

Certified physical education instructors are on hand to guide children through friendly competition in team sports, including basketball, kickball and volleyball, according to Kerry Watkins, director of Parks and Recreation.

Campers also enjoy arts and crafts, swimming, miniature golf, horseshoes and dance lessons from a guest dance instructor.

Interacting with peers through play is important to a child’s social development, according to Poche.

“It provides an opportunity for the children to get to know other kids,” Poche said. “The 4- and 5-year-olds in particular get a head start in being prepared for school.”

The camp is community focused, connecting children to a variety of attractions in St. John Parish and the surrounding region.

Poche said East Bank and West Bank campers take some field trips separately and others together.

Over the course of the camp, children tour Evergreen and Whitney plantations, ride the Steamboat Natchez, interact with animals at Global Wildlife Center and the Audubon Zoo and enjoy the movies at the LaPlace theater and the theater/bowling alley complex in Gonzales.

Campers take periodic trips to St. John the Baptist Parish libraries, according to Poche. Educational components also include a health workshop from Eat Move Grow Outreach Coordinator Lauren Manual and themed topics.

Poche said weekly themes promote respect, responsibility, fairness, care and citizenship.

Her favorite part of directing the camp is seeing how children respond to it.

“I like coming in every day to see the smiles on kids faces and know they’re happy and content,” Poche said.

Summer Camp registration is available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays through June 7 at Regala Gymnasium, 200 Regala Park Road in Reserve, and online at Camp fees must be paid in advance.

For more information, call 985-652-9569 Ext. 1169 or 1241.