Enrollment for Eau Claire YMCA Children’s Summer Programs hits max capacity

For the first time in almost two decades, the Eau Claire YMCA has a waiting list for its Summer Programs

Abby Johnson (She/Her)

More stories from Abby Johnson (She/Her)


Abby Johnson

The YMCA provides summer programming for up to 450 children at a time.

As the last day of school approaches, finding available activities for children in the Chippewa Valley to be involved over the 2022 Summer may not be so easy. 

The Eau Claire YMCA summer program enrollment numbers testify to the increased demand for summer involvement for children in the Chippewa Valley this year. 

“This year is absolutely insane,” Amy Peterson-Foss, the Eau Claire YMCA’s Sports Center Director, said. “In March we were booked and had to start a wait list. That’s never happened the entire time I’ve worked here.”

Peterson-Foss has worked for the Eau Claire YMCA for 18 years and has never seen demand for any of the YMCA programs this high.

The Eau Claire YMCA provides children between ages 5 to 14 with sports and activity camps, keeping them engaged with other children their age during the summer. Additionally, the Eau Claire YMCA provides outdoor day care and early learning community programs for children under 5 years old.

Peterson-Foss attributed the enrollment surge to the fact that COVID-19 has settled, and parents are realizing the importance of socializing their children. According to Peterson-Foss, each summer camp promotes critical thinking skills, friendship, sportsmanship and creativity.

“Due to the pandemic, now that we’re further into it,” Peterson-Foss said. “People are seeing the differences with kids socially.”

Ellen Reidt, a second grade teacher at Holton Elementary in Hudson, WI,  said the same as Peterson-Foss. Reidt graduated from the College of St. Benedicts in 2017 and is finishing her fifth year teaching elementary education.

Since acclimating back to pre-pandemic, in-person class, Reidt said it is evident students are socially behind due to low in-person activity involvement throughout the school year and summer break.

“Kids that are involved in programs during the summer tend to transition better to school in the fall,” Reidt said. “It’s important to have them continue to be social with kids their age and work on interacting skills, like conflict self-regulation.” 

Reidt said teachers can tell who sat in front of screens all summer compared to those who were involved in summer activities or who had screen time limits. She said children who lack focus and adaptability with school routines are likely using screens more often at home. 

Shanna Schweitzer, a mother of a 6 year old son, said summer programs are crucial in continuing her son’s development of his social skills. Additionally, summer programs provide a form of childcare while her and her husband both work full-time. 

Summer programming allows for less structured play, exploration, and friendship development outside a school environment,” Schweitzer said. “Even when he does not think he’s learning, he is.”

Though Schweitzer’s son has never been involved in an Eau Claire YMCA summer program, she has enrolled him in programs like the day camps offered by the YMCA. 

“The YMCA camps look great,” Schweitzer said. “There are definitely programs I know my son would enjoy, if only they had more slots open for kids.” 

Peterson-Foss said the Eau Claire YMCA is currently exploring more options to expand its resources and make them more readily available for children who cannot afford them or who are on the waiting list. 

“The physical YMCA building is only so big, and in turn we can only hold so many kids,” Peterson-Foss said. “We’re brainstorming ideas to try and see if we can enroll the 50 kids on the waiting list into a program or hire more help to create additional programs.”

For now, the children on the waiting list will remain there.

For more information about Eau Claire YMCA Summer Programming visit https://www.ymca-cv.org/childcareandcamps

Johnson can be reached at [email protected].