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Sometimes the long, lazy days of summer are not all they’re cracked up to be. After a few weeks of hanging out with friends, swimming, and playing video games, many children and their parents are looking for something more.

For participants in Lakehill’s Community Connections Summer Camp program, idle summer days are exchanged for the opportunity to work as a team to improve their community. Held twice during the summer, once in June and once in July, each one-week program offers students of all ages the opportunity to plan, implement, and evaluate a variety of service learning projects. Led by Lakehill staff members Kaye Hauschild and Gigi Ekstrom, campers spend the week helping a variety of local organizations. Each day brings a different activity and a new opportunity to make the world a little brighter.

Campers begin the week brainstorming ideas and selecting the projects that the group wants to address. Last year’s campers, who ranged in age from six to 16 years old, completed projects focusing on hunger, the environment, the elderly, animals, children, and the homeless. They partnered with several community organizations, including For the Love of the Lake, Promise of Peace Community Garden, C.C. Young, The Stewpot, Meals on Wheels, The Brady Center, and many others.

Campers were amazed by the positive footprint they could leave on their community in a short amount of time. During just one week of camp, for example, campers gave more than 800 combined hours of dedicated service to their community.

The students who enrolled in the camp hoped to make a difference – and they did. “Our goal is to embrace a spirit of volunteerism that will foster a life-long passion for service,” explained Lakehill’s Community Service Coordinator, Gigi Ekstrom. “We want service to others to become an inherent part of who they are and what they do.”

Admittedly, many students start out not knowing how to get involved. The Community Connections Camp was initiated to help even the youngest students find ways to engage in meaningful projects and to inspire them to continue their involvement in the community.

Katie Rich had just completed first grade and was one of the youngest students enrolled in the camp last summer. “Community Connections really made a difference in her life,” explained her mother, Sarah Rich.

“What I learned is that if you try hard enough, you can always find a way to help,” echoed Katie, who continues to be involved in a variety of Service Leaning projects throughout the year. In fact, she was recently honored as a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, the nation’s highest recognition for community service.

Community Connections is designed to give children the opportunity to serve the community, learn more about community organizations, and develop the ability to plan, implement, and evaluate service learning projects.

 “As parents, we want to raise kids who care, but sometimes we aren’t sure how to go about it. Community Connections Camps allow students to participate in such a wide range of volunteer opportunities in our community,” said Rich. “It truly plants the seeds of service with our children.”

Lakehill will again offer two Community Connections Camps this summer for students of all ages. The first session runs June 24 - 28 and the second session runs July 29 - August 2. Online registration is now open.