Summertime | March 28, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Cover Story - March 28, 2008


It's not too soon to sign up for summer fun

by Meghan Neal

There's always sports and swim teams, but there's also chess, robots, musical theater and paintball.

With Danville, Alamo and the San Ramon Valley YMCA all offering a diversity of summer camps and classes, there should be no trouble finding one to suit almost any child's interests.

"I think we have a wide variety of opportunities for kids of all ages to participate," said Michelle Lacy, recreation services manager for the Town of Danville. "To learn new skills, meet new friends, get out and be active."

Danville gets kids out and about

Each summer the town offers a host of camps ranging from sports to theater to community service, for ages 3 through 18.

Most of the camps take place outside, in various parks throughout the area. Lacy said it's a great way to keep a "nature deprived" generation of youth engaged with the outdoors.

One of the most popular camps for children under 5 is the Little Peanuts Camp, which offers crafts, games and songs. At the Danville Day Camp - a classic favorite for elementary schoolers - kids do outdoor activities and, of course, spend time at the pool.

"Summer camp experiences give kids an opportunity to try new things in a safe environment," Lacy said. "It keeps them busy - and out of trouble."

And speaking of trouble, there's a new camp this year specifically for teenagers, which Lacy said is unique.

"There's not a lot of opportunity for camps for teens," she said. "That's about the time you find kids not wanting to participate, and parents leaving kids at home, and (kids) trying out some of those boundaries and getting themselves in trouble."

The DesTEENation camp gives teens the chance to go to amusement parks, the aquarium, the zoo, on a safari, rock climbing, sailing, whitewater rafting, play paintball, fly on a trapeze and other adventures.

For those who want something a bit more philanthropic, there's the Summer of Service camp. High schoolers work on projects like beach cleanup and trail repair - plus team building activities and field trips.

"We have a number of kids in our area who really want to give back to our community," Lacy said, adding the camp is also a good way for teens to learn job skills before entering the "real world."

Education in the parks

Alamo Parks and Recreation's summer classes run the gamut. Sports fans can learn soccer, dance and gymnastics. Minds are kept fresh with French and Spanish language classes.

"Our program works with all ages, everywhere from preschool all the way up to (high school) seniors," said Victoria Skerritt, Alamo's recreation provider.

She said Alamo's Parks and Recreation committee tries to come up with unique angles for the classes it offers - like organization and finance classes for adults 25 and up.

"What we try to do is not duplicate what Danville is doing," Skerritt said. "This is kind of a newer program so we're just trying to find things that the community wants that maybe are not offered."

The classes are held at Hap Magee Ranch Park, Stone Valley Middle School and the Alamo Elementary School field.

"Participants enjoy the opportunity to take in the beautiful surroundings at Hap Magee Ranch Park as they socialize and learn new skills in their classes," Skerritt said.

Alamo Parks and Recreation will also be hosting its popular Summer Concert Series this year with bands playing free shows at Livorna Park. Danville offers its Music in the Park series at Oak Hill Park.

It's fun to play at the YMCA

The YMCA San Ramon Valley offers half-day specialty camps at Rancho Romero and Alamo elementary schools.

Camps are a great way for kids to meet people and create a sense of community, said executive director Kathy Chiverton.

Many of the camps have an educational aspect to them, like popular Lego camps, which are taught by engineers.

The chess camp is a longtime favorite, too; this is the sixth year it's being offered. The camp is taught by Berkeley Chess School.

This summer the YMCA is offering a new Lego camp focused on "green" power. Kids can design and build machines powered by alternative energy sources.

Campers will race solar cars, build a wind-powered electrical generation facility, and invent a machine powered by stored elastic strain energy.

"Kids get to play with every Lego they could possibly imagine," Chiverton said. "They learn to build different structures and machines."

The Mad Machines and Robots camp is new this year, too. After designing and building machines with pulleys, wedges, screws and levers, the campers will also build a robot that they can keep.

"We want kids to stay active and healthy and learning all through the summer," said Chiverton. "There are lots of reasons to go to camp."

For complete camp schedule

Danville: Go to the Recreation Services page of the town Web site, or call 314-3400

Alamo: Call 876-0147, e-mail or visit

YMCA: Visit or call 831-1100