Good morning Smarties! Not sure about your house, but we are officially counting down to summer vacation at my house. With only 17 days left in the school year, we are definitely in the home stretch. I always look forward to summer vacation and extra time with the fam, but then reality hits after a week I am bombarded with, “I’m bored!” “What are we doing today?” “I don’t want to go to the pool.” “I’m bored!” ( I hear “I’m bored” a lot.)
These kids don’t know what being bored is. As kids we created our own fun with our imaginations. We had six TV stations and only one color TV. You had to hoist your rump off the couch to change the channel – that is, if your little sister wasn’t available. We rode our bikes, skateboards and roller skates around the neighborhood. There weren’t electric means of motoring for kids. I loved my simple summers of the 70s, I wish my children could embrace those simple carefree days where, unless you were physically with your friends, nobody knew what and where you were up to.
Today I want to introduce you to Donna Casey. I first met Donna many years ago when my friend told me about a day camp in her neighborhood where the emphasis was on old fashion fun with some educational activities snuck in. My kids loved it, and they hated when I arrived to pick them up each afternoon after a fun-filled day. Please enjoy getting to know Donna and her wonderfully simply fun Camp KC.
Smarty Mom: Donna Casey
Jobs: Literacy Resource Assistant at Beverly Woods Elementary; Owner of Camp KC~Kids Connect!; Tutor for elementary and middle school students
Family: Ashley and Allie Casey.
Ashley, 26, is a Technology Specialist at Lexus and a huge animal rights advocate.
Allie,19, is a rising Sophomore at UNCC and aspires to become a Dual English/Spanish Speech
Originally From: I am originally from deep south Georgia , around the Okefenokee Swamp Park, but have lived in Charlotte for 31 years (doesn’t that make me a native)!
What is Camp KC and tell us about it all started.
Camp KC stands for Camp Kids Connect. It is a play on my last name (Casey / KC) but I chose Connect because that’s what I want kids to do – connect with each other with respect, eye to eye contact and old fashion fun. I started Camp KC because I wanted to give kids, who go to day camp while parents work, an opportunity to feel like they are in a special summer family.
I have camp locations in the Charlotte area as well in Union County, and CMS and Union County teachers run each location. We offer small camps in some schools but mostly the locations are in neighborhoods with a swim and racquet club. This way children can be in their own (or close-by) neighborhood while having a unique camp experience with their neighbors, school friends and pool friends. We play tennis in the morning and swim in the afternoon. We offer old fashion fun with unique and different weekly themes while weaving in literacy; like skyping with a children’s author! We also use STEM by building arcade games out of cardboard boxes! But most importantly we model citizenship, a sense of responsibility, respect, and working collaboratively with other kids whether younger or older. I am proud to say, the success of this idea has been immeasurable. I am deeply proud of what we have accomplished and the reputation it has gained.
I started Camp KC 14 years ago. My first location was at The WindyRush Country Club. The president of another Swim and Racquet Club in Piper Glen had a young child attending camp at Windyrush and asked me to meet with their board to discuss offering Camp KC there. Camp site number 2 was established and that same small child whose dad asked about doing a camp site in Piper Glen, became a counselor helper as a teen for several summers at the location she grew up in! From there Beverly Crest in South Charlotte began offering camp at their clubhouse. One of the original young campers has now grown up to be a counselor helper for several summers. As the popularity of our small family style camp grew, so did the opportunities of offering more camp location around the Charlotte area.
We offer a week camp at Charlotte Country Day and are running all summer long at:
– Carrington in Piper Glen Swim and Racquet Club
– Beverly Crest Swim and Racquet Club
– Willowmere Swim and Racquet Club
– Millbridge in Waxhaw
– South Park Swim and Racquet Club
We have grown, but grown slowly staying true to our mission and will always offer small, intimate family style camps. Working in the school system has been a plus when hand picking teachers for locations! We have one teacher that has been with her location for all 14 summers! We love keeping Camp KC in the family where kids who have been with us are now teens working with the teachers! Having grown up in the Camp KC family, they understand our philosophy and dedication to staying true to why we began Camp KC in the first place.
How does Camp KC work with our community?
We offer camp scholarships for deserving kids. Each school year I meet with the teachers who work the camps and asked them if they have a child they teach at their school who is deserving of a free week or so of camp. After I receive all of their nominations I choose a few kids who have shown great character despite their personal financial situation and offer free camps to them. I know some of these kids would not ever have that opportunity and feel they are so deserving and I want to expose them to our family summer camp with learning, tennis and pool time.
We also collaborate with the Isabella Santos Foundation. Their son, Grant, has been a camper with us for many summers and when asked to contribute to their worthy cause, we immediately offered two weeks free camp to the winner of their raffle.
My day job is a literacy support teacher for fourth and fifth graders. I serve kids who don’t like reading, have trouble with comprehension or need accountability. (Really a plethora of reasons!) I absolutely love what I do. To help students who “hated” reading become an avid readers is just the best feeling ever because I know reading will open up doors for them! I am the current Teacher Assistant of The Year for the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System as well as the District Teacher Assistant of the Year for the State of North Carolina. To be recognized as a child advocate, for my passion for kids and the love of teaching has been humbling and rewarding.
What is your favorite family outing?
My daughters and I love to shop and eat at our favorite restaurant Monterey’s. We joke that our pictures should be on the walls there because we have eaten there for so many years. We have eaten there so much they know our order, no menus required.
Another thing I have always enjoyed with my daughters is giving back to our community. We have organized and collected items all of their lives. From Christmas baskets for the kids at the Battered Women’s Shelter to pick out and give to their mothers, to collecting over 400 dog food cans and over 200 cat food cans to give to an animal rescues. (Campers also get involved with this project and gain the opportunity to learn about investing in their community.) My daughters have continued this in their own adult lives today. My oldest daughter has a “farm” of unwanted rescued animals and my youngest daughter buys blankets and fills large zip lock bags full of items to give to people on the street who are asking for money. We share this passion and it keeps us as a family connected with our shared passion. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, there is always a way to stay connected beyond the norm.
Favorite vacation spot?
Our very favorite spot to vacation is Amelia Island, Florida. I grew up going there as a kid and I wanted to pass that low key, rustic, back to nature place down to my kids. We dream of our time to decompress, read books and just be. My dream is to own a vacation home there so that the tradition can continue with future generations.
Currently reading or on your list?
My reading list this summer for the beach are (other than the books kids in my reading groups are into): UNACCUSTOMED EARTH by, Jhumpa Lahir and THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE by, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.