Camp Apex keeping kids cool during heat wave
Thaddeus Conner, Andrew Garappolo and Aiden Kelly, all 7, stay cool with a lawn sprinkler set up at Camp Apex in Shelburne to help beat the heat.
Camp Apex camper Jameson Dailey-Pecor, 13, of Charlemont emerges from the deep with his mask on Monday beating the heat in the camp's pool.
SHELBURNE — A young girl with long, braided hair jumped up and down Monday afternoon when she was told her group was headed to the pool for a swim.
In a nearby pavilion, two boys struggled for the first cup of cold water from a jug that sat feet from the game of gaga ball they’d been playing just moments before.
And several of the two dozen adults who watched over all of the giggling children wiped their brows or took sips of water from plastic bottles as the early afternoon sun beat on their heads.
The heat is on, again, and counselors at Camp Apex in Shelburne are doing all that they can to keep young campers, and themselves, cool this week.
With another scorcher of a week upon Franklin County, camp directors at the local YMCA day camp have had to get creative with activities so everyone stays safe.
On Monday, the National Weather Service in Taunton was forecasting temperatures would be in the 90s through Thursday, with a heat index, at least in the earlier part of the week, at 100 degrees or more.
“There’s water everywhere,” said Dave Garappolo, director of the camp and youth and family director of the YMCA. “We’ve got jugs and a fountain (for drinking), and there’s a pool and sprinklers, so the kids can get wet.”
Kara Younger, assistant director of the camp, as well as the YMCA’s after-school program director, said on weeks like this one, when temperatures are expected to be in the 90s, day campers, who range in age from 5 to 15, stay in their bathing suits all day.
“We put sprinklers out, so if they aren’t having swim time, they can cool off by running through a sprinkler,” said Younger. “It gets a little muddy, but that can be fun, too.”
The heat didn’t seem to bother campers on Monday afternoon.
Some practiced agility on the camp’s shaded obstacle course, running through tires and crawling through a long tube, laughing as they watched those who went before or after them.
Other campers swam in the large, in-ground, T-shaped pool, splashing each other and screeching as they left the cement to dive into the deep end.
Still others ran back and forth from gaga ball or arts and crafts to the pavilion to get a sip of water.
Garappolo and Younger said counselors try to keep campers out of the sun as much as possible.
“There’s plenty of shaded areas here,” said Garappolo.
“We do less active and non-competitive activities with the kids when temperatures are like this,” said Younger on Monday afternoon. “We try to add water to many of the games.”
Younger said, for instance, instead of playing field soccer in the sun, campers play tube slide, where they hike up a short hill and take a ride in a sled down a long plastic tube into which water is constantly fed.
Garappolo said instead of playing Duck, Duck, Goose, campers play Drip, Drip, Splash, in which the child who is “it” dumps water on the “goose.”
Every camper gets an hour of swim time (lessons) a day and an hour of “free” time to do whatever they want to do. Younger said this week she’s guessing most campers will choose a second hour of swim time.
“We train our counselors to stay hydrated, to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion, and to know their limits,” said Garappolo. “We expect them to help campers do the same.”
“We just keep telling them to get wet when they need to, drink lots of water, and we have Freeze Pops to cool them off when it gets really hot,” said Younger.
Garappolo said about 150 campers attend each session, but on a day like Monday was — close to 95 degrees by midday with a heat index over 100 — there are fewer campers there, because some parents keep their children home.
The counselors said the best thing about a hot week at camp is the “happy kids running through sprinklers saying, ‘I love this place.’”