Local camps keep kids safe with A/C, water
A stifling heat wave has caused park officials across the suburbs to alter programs that normally welcome the sun and warm temperatures: summer day camps.
From canceling field trips to limiting outdoor activities, officials have taken measures to ensure campers' safety with the heat index expected to remain above 100 degrees through Thursday.
But convincing campers they should spend part of their vacation indoors has been a challenge.
"The kids want to be outside," Itasca Park District Recreation Supervisor Susan Rioux said. "They love playing outside and playing outdoor games and things like that. To have kids realize it's too hot to be outside, we have to be creative."
Here's a roundup of what suburban park district and other summer camps are doing this week.
Rioux said she and her staff have added indoor dodgeball tournaments and scavenger hunts to the camps. She also limits campers to 30-minute increments of outdoor activity and provides extra water breaks.
"The one thing we pride ourselves on is that we offer a lot of outdoor activities," Rioux said. "We like to focus our camp outdoors. But it has been interesting because now we are trying to facilitate more indoor activities."
In Aurora, Fox Valley Park District Recreation Supervisor Rose Gloor said some parents have kept their children home in the heat.
"Safety of the children is first and foremost," she said. "We try not to plan anything too active because sometimes kids don't really monitor themselves. It's our responsibility to make sure they are not overdoing it."
Gloor said outdoor activities have been adjusted slightly for the heat. Water balloon fights and slip-and-slides become more common as the mercury rises.
Counselors have picked up additional water hoses, sprinklers and ice tubs to try to keep the kids cool.
"We want (campers) to be wet as much as possible," she said. "It's been a challenge."
Lisle Park District officials keep in touch throughout the day to determine whether camps should be moved inside to Lisle High School. The camp typically runs close to its capacity of 112 campers. Park directors say the heat has caused them to cancel a planned trip to Starved Rock State Park in Utica and they instead will take their campers bowling.
"We'd like to go but safety is our No. 1 priority," said Athletic and Youth Camp Supervisor Erica Wise.
The move was duplicated in Wheaton, where a Brookfield Zoo visit was nixed.
Wheaton Park District Marketing and Special Events Coordinator Cathy Hetrick said the heat has caused some programs to move indoors. Some campers have enjoyed the changes, she said, because the heat has given them additional days at the pool.
"They love being wet and in their swimsuits," she said. "We haven't heard any complaining. Parents understand that we have the best interests of the kids in mind."
Kathrine Tichy, 9, of Schaumburg loves to play on the swings and roll down hills with her friends at Kasper Summer Camp at the Schaumburg Park District.
But Tuesday, she and all her friends had to stay inside to beat the heat. And that made her a little sad.
"I like it outside," Tichy said.
Her counselor, Mica Atkinson of Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, said the kids seemed to miss their three hours outside.
"We had to entertain them more intellectually," Atkinson said. "We had to utilize all of their energy."
The camp kept the kids inside in space that normally is used for birthday parties on the weekends, said Sandy Harris, the park district's division manager of recreation programs.
"We're very fortunate that we have a lot of indoor spaces to keep the kids inside," Harris said.
Other park districts aren't as lucky.
The Barrington Park District's superintendent of recreation, Carla Smothers, said her facility couldn't fit all of the kids inside, so it was rotating campers from the eight different sessions in and out of the Langendorf Park Fitness & Recreation Center.
"We are constantly filling up water bottles," Smothers said.
The start time of a soccer camp near Barrington High School was changed from noon to 8:30 a.m. to keep campers cooler. Parents who couldn't work with the new time were give the option to transfer.
Other Barrington campers added water to games they already play. Instead of running to second base in a game of kick ball, campers would take a slip n' slide.
Barrington hasn't scheduled extra swim time because the pools are crowded due to the heat.
And the Arlington Heights Park District actually scheduled less time at the pool for its campers. "We feel like it might be too much (in the) heat," said Lynn Minuskin, preschool and day camp supervisor.
Her 10 camps are rotating campers inside at least once an hour, and the preschool campers are going outside only to swim.
A field trip Tuesday for all 550 campers to see the police department in action was moved from an outdoor location to the air-conditioned gym at Pioneer Park.
The Des Plaines Park District camps canceled there biweekly walking field trip to the miniature golf course at the Mountain View Adventure Center because of the heat.
"We are making constant reminders to our campers to stay hydrated," said Karyn Roth, Des Plaines Park District recreation supervisor.
She said that the camps have reached out to parents to remind them to bring water.
And all park districts' representatives said they are trying to keep their campers drinking and in the shade as much as possible.
"We're just thankful it's not multiple weeks," Smothers of Barrington said. "Yesterday wasn't too bad. We'll see what happens tomorrow."
Luckily for youngsters at the City of Elgin's Camp High Five at Wing Park, this week's theme is water.
That means plenty of games involving cool liquids and trips to the pool.
There won't be any games of kickball or tag for participants this week as temperatures are expected to remain in the 90s with heat indexes well into triple digits.
Instead, the 20 or so campers will stick to the shade, drink plenty of water and do less physically demanding activities like art and crafts, said Deb Barr, community program supervisor for the City of Elgin.
"They will be doing more down activities," Barr said. "We did inform parents that it is a very shaded area, we will have extra water available. We asked them to dress their children in light clothing, pack a water bottle and sunscreen."
At the Wing Park pool on Tuesday, supervisors instituted "safety breaks" every hour to ensure children remained hydrated and covered with sunblock.
"It is nice for the kids to be outside, as long as we're taking precautions," said Natalie Smith, director of Camp High Five, the city's only all-outdoor camp. "Staying hydrated is the biggest thing. Just because kids are in the water doesn't mean they are hydrated."
At Randall Oaks Park in Dundee Township, camp organizers are ensuring the 35 grade-school children are limiting activity, drinking plenty of water and finding shade.
"They will be doing more quiet activities like crafts," said Jim Miller, deputy director of the Dundee Township Park District. "The staff is on high alert because they are serious conditions out there."
Miller said children must show camp leaders that they are drinking water because it is not good enough to simply tell children to drink water.
If conditions worsen, Miller said, the camp has the option of moving indoors to nearby Liberty Elementary School in Carpentersville.
Sports camp officials have canceled an anticipated trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago on Wednesday. Instead, campers will have a pizza and movie party indoors at the recreation center in Carpentersville.
The expected heat has also forced the Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 band camp to reschedule its 6 p.m. Thursday performance to 9 a.m. outside at Hannah Beardsley Middle School.
"Thursday outside in the night is going to be pretty brutal," said Scott Sampson, District 47's music coordinator.
At the YMCA's Camp Duncan in Ingleside, a few small portable pools have been set up around the campgrounds so kids can cool off, Director Rona Roffey said Tuesday.
Outdoor activities have been shortened to give campers more time to rest, too, Roffey said, and many activities have been moved to shady areas.
"We're trying to stay out of the direct sun," Roffey said.
Camp Duncan's main swimming pool is indoors, and the campground has room for indoor gatherings and activities, but counselors are trying to keep kids outdoors.
"You hate to have the kids inside on such a nice day," Roffey said.
At the Central Lake County YMCA camp in Vernon Hills, kids are taking more water breaks and have been encouraged to carry personal water bottles, marketing coordinator Stephanie Pfenning said.
Additionally, some activities have been shortened or moved indoors.
Campers there also are taking advantage of the facility's indoor water slide and water playground, Pfenning said.
"They love it," she said.
Campers in the various Mundelein Park and Recreation District summer programs are spending more time indoors this week, district Director Margaret Resnick said.
No widespread changes have been implemented, Resnick said.
The park district also operates the Diamond Lake beach and the Barefoot Bay aquatic center, and action at both sites is up, Resnick said.
"I can see the (Barefoot Bay) slide tower from the back door of the community center, and when the kids are lined up halfway down the stairs, it's a very busy day down there," she said.
Campers in Wauconda Park District programs will get a beach day this week, Recreation Superintendent Tim Staton said. Tennis lessons and baseball league games set for Wednesday and Thursday have been canceled, he said.
The Vernon Hills Park District's camps and programs haven't changed much because of the weather, Recreation Supervisor Tom Ritter said.
"Obviously, we're extra conscientious because of the heat, but almost every camp is at a facility that's air-conditioned," he said.
Campers are able to seek shelter at the Hawthorn Elementary District 73 buildings, which are used as rain locations when needed.
Gurnee Park District spokeswoman Jennifer Gilbert said the heat has forced a move of a youth camp's Lip Sync and Dance Show to the Woodland Intermediate School on Wednesday. The event had been scheduled for the Viking Park band shell on Old Grand Avenue.
The park district has an extreme-temperature policy that calls for mandatory breaks at indoor, air-conditioned facilities, water breaks and rest breaks, and mandatory sunscreen use, Gilbert said.
Additionally, staffers have been watching campers and each other for any signs of heat-related problems, she said.
The Lake County Forest Preserve District runs several day camps during the summer but "Adventures in Nature" at Van Patten Woods near Wadsworth is the only full-day offering this week.
There, activities were adjusted, so instead of playing "duck, duck, goose" kids play "drip, drip, drench."
The district's hotline, (847) 968-3235, features weather-related information and is updated every morning.
Elsewhere, the Libertyville Sports Complex and other large indoor facilities in the area have received inquiries from private day camps outside the region, said Randy Splitt, the complex's athletic supervisor.
Openings are slim, however.
"Unfortunately, this already is a very busy week," he said.
There's nothing better then ice cream on a hot summer day.
Even though the St. Charles Park District day campers' planned adventure to Kimmer's Ice Cream Shop was canceled Tuesday because of the heat, campers still enjoyed the ice cream.
"Instead we had Kimmer's pack up some ice cream and we were able to bring that to the kids," Krista Mulready said.
The early childhood, preschool and day camp supervisor for the park district said all day camps were moved inside Tuesday as the heat index was more than 100 degrees. Other camps in the Tri-Cities area were moved inside but were not canceled.
"We moved the kids to the Pottawatomie Community Center," Mulready said. "We're just not taking them outside. If they're out there for 45 minutes they are just covered in sweat and that's not fun."
Some of Batavia's campers also moved inside.
"Most of our day camps have indoor facilities available," pointed out Kari Miller, the Batavia Park District's marketing and publics relation manager. "Some sports camps are moving to indoors (Wednesday). ... Most of our camps are in the morning so hopefully the heat won't be an issue."
Miller said if the heat index gets too high Wednesday, some camps may be moved to finish next week.
In Geneva, some campers can go into an air-conditioned room to cool off, recreation supervisor Stacey Fedyski said.
"We're making sure everyone is getting enough water and not in the sun for too long," Fedyski said.
Heat exhaustion v. heat strokeUnderstanding the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke could save your life. Dr. Ted Manczko of Adventist GlenOaks in Glendale Heights offers tips on how to differentiate and how to treat each condition.
Y Heat exhaustion: fatigue, body aches, nausea, headaches, blurred vision, upset stomach, feeling like you're going to pass out
Y Heat stroke: Mental status changes such as confusion, combativeness, lack of sweating, unclear speech and not making sense.
Caring for each
Y Heat exhaustion: Move to a cool, shaded place. Drink liquids and rest.
Y Heat stroke: This is a medical condition. Call 911 immediately. Victim will be confused and may not follow your direction. Try to convince them and smother them with cold water or ice wrapped in a towel. "Things that cool them off that they may not be willing to do themselves."
Y Most at risk are children, elderly and people with multiple medical problems.