Monday, October 25, 2021

Take a blast to the past and beyond!

Left to Right: Jennifer Stout, Connor Hegarty, Sara Robinson, Jonathan King, Hillary Bostic, Bobby Gresham. Working as a team to describe their photos and placing them in camp chronological order. Submitted

Left to Right: Jennifer Stout, Connor Hegarty, Sara Robinson, Jonathan King, Hillary Bostic, Bobby Gresham. Working as a team to describe their photos and placing them in camp chronological order. Submitted

By Gina Sisbarro

“Feel the energy” is what leapt out of  Mindy Matusiak, Recreation Program Supervisor and Amber Prange, Teen Recreation Leader when asked “Got Camp”?

The place to start is from the beginning. What made the staff decide to open “Camp Mackle” versus contracting with the Sports Camp organization? Mindy noted Bryan Milk, Parks and Recreation Director said the time was right. He felt he had all the key staff members in place to put together their own camp. “We jumped out of our seats with enthusiasm!” recalled Mindy, “It was very difficult to deal with a contracted service because you don’t have control other than property management rules. Even though they didn’t have the authority, the recreation department took the brunt of complaints from parents and were unable to remedy the situation other than to pass the concerns along. This was our opportunity to put together our concept of what camp should be all about!”

Mindy and Amber put together a camp where the mission was to keep the kids fully engaged with recreational and educational activity. The movie screen only comes out once a week. The counselors are on a schedule with no down time. They travel with a recreation bag and know there is a plan “B” to contend with if Plan “A” doesn’t work. There are choices every time the designated hour turns over. Mindy and Amber know boredom leaves to bad behavior. Therefore counselors know their schedules are planned well in advance and they’re always prepared for the next activity. There is no “lull time.”

They are coming off a successful summer. Last year’s theme was “Traveling around the World.” Each week the campers traveled to a different country. What really hyped up the campers was coming into the community center and seeing the place decorated “to the max” with the country’s colors and traditions. By the end of the week, the campers added to the décor by having their own related art work displayed all over the walls. Guest speakers contributed their expertise to the weekly themes. We had a karate instructor for Asian Week, an authentic dancer from Brazil, zoo animals for Africa, to name a few. Amber takes responsibility for that department. “I’m a “Google Fiend,” you never know who or what I’m going to find on the internet to add to the excitement of the camp. We picked a community service project, too. Last year we concentrated on the Gulf oil spill by collecting cleaning products for the animal wildlife.”

This summer the ladies have geared up for a trip back to the future. Imagine traveling back to the dinosaur days, to the roaring twenties, to the Wild West and early explorers. Who knows, maybe these campers will find the fountain of youth! The annual service project will be to purchase “pillow pets” which go from pets to pillows. This foundation was started by a boy with cancer who was able to get through the traumatic stages of the disease by hugging his “pillow pet.”

What is the key to success? Both Mindy and Amber believe that motivation starts from the top. The counselors are only as excited as management, and I could see from their enthusiasm in talking about the camp that success track has been initiated. What makes their staff different from others, what does Camp Mackle do differently? It’s called “Camp Workshop Training Day.” All the potential candidates meet for a day and go through a series of games, exercises, and problem solving routines. The staff takes this opportunity to screen through the candidates to see who fits their counselor criteria. Only the top counselors get recruited for the job. Once they are chosen the staff goes through Camp Mackle training with an emphasis on bully management.

Mindy says we turn behavior around by focusing on the positive. “We teach counselors to look for the good qualities in campers, not finding the bad. It works, and we have a fun, creative, uplifting environment for all the staff.”

Interested, you should be! Registration is being taken at Mackle Park during their hours of operation. A parent can pick up an information package. Fees are $20.00 per day, $80.00 for the week, or $625.00 for the entire summer. Parents, are funds a little tight. There is a new scholarship program provided by the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island. Ask for the application. Qualified candidates eligibility for funds will be determined. For further information contact Mindy or Amber at 642-0575 and get ready for an adventurous summer. You might meet up with Marty McFly from “Back to the Future”!


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