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YMCA’s Camp Olympics Keeps the Focus on Fun and Games

Summer campers from Lompoc to Camarillo gather at Montecito's Manning Park for a day of togetherness and silliness

Warm weather greeted about 300 children from Channel Islands YMCA branches in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties on Wednesday as Montecito’s Manning Park hosted a day of games, togetherness and silliness for the Camp Olympics.

For at least 10 years, YMCA summer campers come to a Santa Barbara-area park to share in opening and closing ceremonies and various games.

This year, the worldwide diversity theme had each branch pick a continent-based game. There was a mummified game station with plenty of toilet paper for Africa, an Atlantic to Pacific water relay race, and the classics of wiffle ball and hula hooping.

“We call it the Olympics, but really it’s about being silly,” Santa Barbara youth program director Andrea Opfer said.

Each YMCA location buses campers for the Olympics and other field trips, and Ventura branch director Jake Munych said the campers stay with the counselors who know them but mingle for opening and closing ceremonies.

He said his favorite part of the Camp Olympics is seeing all of the campers come together — which is rare given the distance between them, as they stretch from Lompoc to Camarillo.

Most participants are in kindergarten through fifth grade, and older students from seventh to 10th grade helped lead the activities along with staff counselors. This year’s number of campers was far fewer than three or four years ago, Opfer said.

With the economy, she said, it seems fewer people need weeklong child care, and numbers have changed a lot in recent years.

The Channel Islands YMCA includes branches in Camarillo, Lompoc, Montecito, Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez and Ventura.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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