Day camp is a summertime tradition providing activities, education and a safe place to stay for many children when school is out, but according to officials at The Y in Central Maryland, it's a service not everyone can afford.
The Y's day camp programs can run as much as $253 a week.
To help parents and guardians who live at or below the federal poverty line —$24,600 for a family of four —the Y is holding a "Send a Kid to Camp" fund-raising campaign, which assists families in paying for camp. Last summer the program provided $250,000 in scholarships so 216 youths could go to camp for between 5 and 10 weeks.
About 10 percent of families in Baltimore County with children younger than 18 are living below the poverty level, according to federal census estimates.
"We do know that the need is growing every year, and we hope that we're able to award a scholarship to everyone who applies for one," said Leslie Tinati, regional annual campaign manager for The Y in Central Maryland.
The Orokawa Y in Towson will hold an event, Cycle a Kid to Camp, on April 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to raise funds for children who want to attend day camp at the Orokawa Y.
"A lot of people assume [that] in Towson people can afford to send their kids to camp, but that is not the case," Tinati said.
When school ends for the summer, guardians often need to continue working or looking for jobs, Tinati said, and day camp is a "lifesaver" for those families. Tinati added that the Y is committed to narrowing the achievement gap between people with means and those without means — without camp students suffer from summer learning loss, Tinati said.
One of the goals of day camp is to teach students new skills, including science, technology, engineering, math and character development.
The fundraiser, in its third year, will include a disc jockey, refreshments and giveaways, but its hallmark will be stationary bicycles which will be set up for donors to ride. The event will be held outside, unless there is inclement weather, according to Tinati.
People can pay for time on the bikes through their donations. A donation of $63 represents the cost of a day of camp, and also pays for an hour of bike-riding time, while a donation of $253 represents the cost of a week of camp, and allows the donor to ride for up to four hours.
People can also make teams and split up the riding time. Donors can also choose not to ride.
The atmosphere of the event is energetic and festive, according to Tinati.
Last year the event raised $5,500, which was matched by an anonymous donation, according to Tinati. That $11,000 helped send roughly 50 children to day camp.
Tinati said the goal is for the event to raise $5,500 again this year. According to an online donation page, people participating in Sunday's event have already raised $3,651.
Tinati added that the Y awards financial assistance to families before it raises the funds, to ensure families can plan for summer as soon as possible.
"It's really an act of faith that the community will help us," she said.
Towson resident Anne Healy, chair of the Community Leadership Board at the Orokawa Y, said she is participating in the event through a team called The Pink Angels.
"It's just a ton of energy and a lot of fun," she said.
Healy said she supports the cause because the Y camp gives kids a chance to see other kids and be active. She added that she supports the Y in general in honor of her late daughter, Bridget Healy.
People don't have to be a member of the Y to sign up to ride, or to make a donation. For more information on the event, go to fundraise.ymaryland.org/2017SKCcycle.