The Great Outdoors

It’s summertime, and families across the region are getting ready to send their kids to overnight camp. They’ve filled out the registration forms, paid the fees, secured the necessary gear, and — if this is a camper’s first time away from home — undoubtedly soothed any pre-departure jitters. Going away to camp is customary, especially here in Minnesota, with kids often attending the same camp that their older siblings, parents, and other family members have attended for generations. Overnight camp is an opportunity to connect with nature, to make new friends, and to get a taste of what life is like away from home. (Who doesn’t like campfires, horseback riding, and canoeing, right?) But, if you happen to be growing up in a family that either lacks the resources or is new to the country and local culture, going to camp can be a missed opportunity.

PPL’s Youth Development Program offers participants and their families the campership funds, as well as the support they might need, to take advantage of this classic Minnesota summer tradition. The funds, made possible in part by the Carl and Eloise Pohlad Family Foundation, have already sent 24 participants to camp this year. Most are first-time campers who either have never left the city or their families for any extended period of time. PPL staff work closely with families to make sure that their child’s first time at camp is positive. Beginning in late April, staff guide families through the entire campership experience, sharing information, answering questions, and translating forms as needed.

Over the years, PPL has built strong relationships with two Wisconsin-based overnight camps: Camp Bovey on Lake Metzger and YMCA’s Camp St. Croix in Hudson. Both are located less than an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities and staff personally drive campers to and from their camp sites, making it even easier for kids and parents alike to get excited about spending a week apart. Earlier this spring, the Student Council at Lincoln Elementary School in White Bear Lake organized a supply drive for PPL campers, resulting in a donation of sleeping bags and flashlights.

Thanks to funding from the Santa Anonymous Summer Camp Grants program of The Minneapolis Foundation, PPL also offers onsite summer day camps. Our SEED Camp, City Explorers, and Roots ‘n’ Reading programming keeps participants engaged in learning while placing emphasis on summertime fun. SEED Camp kids dig into science, and groups go to museums, participate in reading clubs, grow veggies at community garden plots, or spend an afternoon swimming at a city beach. Thanks to partnerships with the YMCA, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and the Minnetonka Center for the Arts, youth are learning how to swim, making pottery, and even quilting alongside their parents and grandparents.

Between both overnight and day camp opportunities, PPL is serving close to 150 youth participants this summer and making the elements of a classic Minnesota childhood more accessible to everyone.

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