Summer seems like a distant memory to most of us – but not 10-year-old Hannah Ellis.
When she talked about summer camp, words exploded like a popcorn kernels in a microwave. Breathlessly, she listed her favorite things about her time at Camp Sweyolakan. “I like swimming in the lake, and spending the night and being outdoors and hiking in the woods!”
She paused to catch her breath. “They feed you breakfast, lunch and dinner – it’s good food! And we sing songs before every meal and during the day.”
Hannah and her siblings attend camp each year thanks to help from the Northeast Spokane Kiwanis Camps for Kids program. On Dec. 3, the group will host the 12th annual Camps for Kids Christmas Breakfast. This event is the only major fundraiser for the program. Club president Peggy Clark said, “There is a strong belief that camps provide something that helps with emotional growth, self-confidence, awareness, as well as respect for others and the environment.”
Hannah’s mom, Kim Ellis agreed. “Every year my kids come back a little more grown up.”
Summer camp is a much-anticipated tradition for the family. Matthew Ellis, 12, also enjoys his time at Sweyolakan and 5-year-old Nathan is looking forward to his first camp this summer.
Hannah’s older sister Chelsea, 18, is a firm believer about the benefits of the summer camp experience. Chelsea has been camping at Camp Dart-Lo north of Spokane and Sweyolakan on Lake Coeur d’Alene since she was in seventh grade. “Last summer was my favorite,” the Central Valley senior said. “I was a senior CIT (counselor in training).”
This much anticipated family tradition wouldn’t be possible without Camps for Kids. Kim Ellis, said, “We sell (Camp Fire) candy, but it’s not enough. The Kiwanis have helped us each year.”
Camps for Kids enables children to attend camps of their choosing. Since its inception in 1999, the program has sent thousands of kids to dozens of camps around the Inland Northwest.
Chelsea Ellis credits her summer camp experiences for teaching her “real-world leadership skills.” She said, “Camp has so much to offer. You learn much more than you think and you have fun while learning.”
Hannah Ellis verified the fun part of the experience. She said, “We have swimming lessons every day. I love it in the morning. I hear the birds chirp and it wakes me up. Sometimes it’s at six in the morning, but I don’t care.”
The Ellis kids attend Dart-Lo and Sweyolakan but the Camps for Kids program encourages children to choose whatever camp most interests them. “We have helped send children to Holy Names Music Center camps, sports camps and many more,” said Clark. “Since 2006, we have provided approximately $30,400 to send kids to camp.”
Sponsored by Numerica Credit Union, MTR Communications, and Coffman Engineers, the Christmas Breakfast will feature raffle items and a silent auction. J.J. Brown, Miss Spokane’s Outstanding Teen, is scheduled to speak.
“I know camp is expensive,” Chelsea Ellis said. “But it’s so great for kids.”
Her sister Hannah added. “I look forward to it all year. If I didn’t go to camp, I’d be really bored over the summer.”
Both girls said they cherish the memories and the friendships they’ve made at summer camp. They spoke of kayaking, hiking and sleeping under the stars. Their stories warm their mother’s heart. Kim Ellis said, “I am so thankful for Kiwanis Camps for Kids. I couldn’t do this without their help.”