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Camp DASH expands and uses $20K scholarships to accommodate more children

Waterford — Camp DASH, the eight-week children's summer program put on by the town's Family and Youth Services, started nine years ago in one location with 50 children.

Now it has expanded to three locations — Clark Lane Middle School, Quaker Hill Elementary School and Oswegatchie Elementary School — to abide by COVID-19 restrictions and accommodate 415 registrations, recently awarding $20,000 in scholarships.

DASH stands for Daily Activities for Summer Happiness, and Dani Gorman, director for youth services, said it was created with the intention to help working parents have affordable child care in the summer. Activities include outside games, performances by magicians and DJs, and field trips.

Gorman said it is especially important now for parents going back to working in the summer after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.

The program, which started June 14 this year, is open to town children in prekindergarten through eighth grade. It costs $150 per week for children who attend 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or $200 per week for those who attend 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In June, the camp received a $15,000 Summer Enrichment Grant from the state Department of Education, which was put toward scholarships to enable more children to participate in the program.

At Camp DASH, the staff and volunteers want children to love the camp so much that they almost don't want to go home.

"We often have kids come for one week and end up here for three weeks or more," said Meaghan Lineburgh, executive camp director.

She said the great thing is that once a child is registered, parents aren't obligated to send them to the camp for all eight weeks.

New this year: Every Wednesday, the camp partners with local businesses for a "special lunch" as a way to support these businesses bouncing back from the pandemic. The children have had food from Captain Scott's, Crown Pizza and Filomena's to name a few.

The camp also has partnered with the Waterford Public Library, where children take turns going each week for story time and logging summer reading.

Clark Lane is the only one out of the three camp locations that does not have pre-K students and doubles as a summer school for middle schoolers.

Campers Emmy Fioravanti and Avery Dowden were two of the first pre-K campers a few years ago. Both said they enjoy making friends from other schools every summer.

Emmy, who attends Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School, said she wants to be a volunteer or staff member one day.

"We get to see everyone as friends and family," Avery, a student at Great Neck, said of why he likes the camp. He also enjoys going to the beach, which the camp does every week as long as the weather is agreeable.

Bree Smith, a student at Waterford High School, started out as a camper herself at the first Camp DASH in 2012, attending every summer until eventually becoming a volunteer and now a camp leader at Oswegatchie.

"Ever since I was a camper, I looked up to the staff," she said.

She enjoys making the children happy and bringing back traditions she did as a child at Camp DASH, such as getting hosed down with water by firetrucks, "passing the torch to the next generation."

j.vazquez@theday.com

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