Grant gives summer camp a $2.3 million boost as it reopens

Kalamazoo County

ROSS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center has been awarded a $2.3 million grant from the Michigan Department of Education as it prepares to reopen the camp for the summer season.  

The camp will soon welcome children back after it did not have a 2020 season because of the pandemic.

Zach Klipsch, the CEO of the non-profit organization, says the center makes a significant impact on the lives of many young people.  

“We normally serve about 2,500 kids just in summer camp and another 5,000 in our schools program,” Klipsch said. 

The grants, which were also awarded to other YMCA camps across the state, come at a time when funding is needed to maintain and expand educational curriculum. The goal is to help children bridge the gap if they fell behind during virtual learning. 

“We lost about a million dollars in revenue by not running summer camp,” Klipsch said. “Whether it be program supplies, whether it be staffing, just the cost to run that program and kick it up another notch when it come to the quality that we’re gonna be able to provide.” 

The Sherman Lake center is putting in place new safety protocols for 2021 including sanitizer stations, social distancing and the use of masks. The organization says the pandemic has made the role camp can have in a child’s life clear. 

“The evidence that kids need camp more than ever is coming out. We are waitlisted almost every single week,” Klipsch said. 

Pravallika Chirumamilla, a returning camp counselor, says getting the news of the closure last year was difficult. 

“It was understandable why we had to shut down but it doesn’t mean we weren’t sad about it,” Chirumamilla said. “We’re excited to be back.” 

She says the counselors are ready to welcome children back and to make an impact on so many young lives.

“Especially if they’re return campers, they’ll come back the next year and remember you,” Chirumamilla said.  

 The first overnight camp session at the Sherman Lake YMCA Outdoor Center starts on Sunday.

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