By REBECCA HERSH
June 21, the first day of summer, also is for many the first day of summer camp, an experience that was cancelled by COVID-19 in 2020.
Middlesex County Recreation Council’s Kiddie Keep Well Camp is a private, non-profit residential camp in Roosevelt Park in Edison offered at no cost to children and teens from Middlesex County.
According to its mission statement, KKWC serves children ages 7-15 who are from low-income families and who often have limited access to health care, preventative education, and recreational activities that promote a healthy lifestyle.
In recent years, the camp has enrolled an average of 700 kids per summer.
Started in 1924, KKWC was developed as a “fresh air” focused camp inspired by a non-COVID national health challenge – tuberculosis. The camp was dedicated to providing summertime enjoyment and health restoration to financially needy Middlesex County children who were suffering from tuberculosis.
And 97 years later, KKWC will reopen with a brand new health center, fully renovated dining hall, bathrooms, dance and drama facilities, WiFi throughout the camp, new intercom system, and new fire alarm system.
In addition, the camp is finishing up several other facilities improvement projects.
According to KKWC Board President Thomas Tighe, “We are honoring the past while building towards the future. … Every summer at KKWC, campers create a lifetime of memories unique to the individual, but those memories and experiences are closely tied to the generations of campers that came before them. We are proud of our 97 years of truly rich history of serving Middlesex County.”
KKWC offers traditional camp activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, sports, nature activities, campfires, dance and drama.
Through in-kind services donated by long standing partners, each camper receives a free medical and dental exam. In addition, the campers are offered nutrition and dental hygiene education during each camp session. If additional dental work is needed, much of it is also available for free for those campers that require it.
In addition to these health-beneficial activities, the social worker on staff provides individual and group workshops to address interpersonal and intrapersonal issues with the campers. Some of these character-building workshops include anger-management, self-esteem, Internet awareness, bullying, and other character-building skills.
This summer, the camp will be able to maintain social distancing by reducing the number of youngsters in each session and reducing the number of days per session. But the number of sessions will be increased – thus serving the same number of children with shorter stays.
The camp also will be running its weekend program starting in September.
Even though the camp receives funding through a Mercer County Human Services grant, the camp’s existence relies on its community partnerships with corporations and individuals in an assortment of capacities. Tighe said KWWC’s fundraising efforts for both volunteer sweat equity and fiscal equity are implemented all year around, but go into high gear for its Fall Gala, this year on Sept. 25.
“I cannot say thank you enough to our tremendous supporters who continue to enable us to provide quality programming, and also not only maintain, but also enhance our facilities,” Tighe said.
To learn more, visit www.kiddiekeepwell.org.