Financial aid tames summer camp costs

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Financial freedom: When looking into camps, ask about scholarships and financial assistance if you are concerned about the costs. Many programs, such as the McGaw YMCA, are willing to work with families. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

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Summer will be here before you know it, and the kids will be looking forward to sun-filled and school-less days. While everyone knows that sending the kids to camp can be expensive, many camp programs offer financial assistance.

At McGaw YMCA in Evanston, Juliet Garrard, marketing director, said the Y works to keep basic membership and camp fees affordable for families. To receive assistance with camp fees, the family or campers must be members at McGaw. Garrard said the Y’s basic membership, which is on a sliding scale, takes into consideration both family income and family size. Garrard added that, “the Y gives away approximately $1.34 million each year to make membership and programs, including camp, affordable.”

“The goal of the Y is that everyone who wants to participate can,” Garrard said. “This is made possible by the generous people and organizations who donate to the Y. Membership fees, while an important contribution, do not cover the fee assistance and scholarships we give out for membership, camp and all our other programs. Progressively, our members are starting to contribute over and above their fees because they see the benefit that kids and others in the community receive from the Y, and we are very grateful and appreciative of their support. Together, we work to ensure that no family that needs our support and our services is turned away because of an inability to pay.”

Gary Deutsch, camp director at Decoma Day Camp in Northbrook said they are very willing to work with parents on an individual basis who have various financial situations.

“Decoma offers several options, such as interest free payment plans, to help interested families send their children to our camp,” he said.

The Park District of Oak Park offers scholarship funds to assist low-income individuals and families wanting to participate in the park district’s programs. Scholarship funds can be used for all park district programs and passes.

“We have revamped our scholarship program for this year to make the application process easier,” said Diane Stank, manager of communications at the Park District of Oak Park. “It is aligned with school district 97’s reduced and free lunch program’s eligibility requirements.”

When looking into camps, be sure to ask about scholarships and financial assistance if you are concerned about the costs. Many programs are willing to work with parents to make sure children get the chance to have the summer camp experience.