October 21, 2021

Camp Owahta opens doors

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Joshua Compagni, left, of Homer, tours Camp Owahta Saturday with Savanna Warfield, 8, and her brother Harper, 5, of Marathon.

The camp was mostly quiet, with the grass still wet from the day’s rain. The cabins for boys and girls were undisturbed, the pond was still, and the plantbeds did not have any plants growing out of them yet.

But by the beginning of July, Camp Owahta will be open again for the summer.

The summer camp in Solon recently had an open house with prospective and returning kids with their families touring the facilities. The camp’s programs start on July 2 and run until Aug. 12, and kids can sign up for any of the six themed weeks available up until two weeks beforehand. About about 120 kids from the ages of 6 to 18 are registered to attend, but that number can change at any time. Last year 269 youths participated in camps.

“One of our weeks is Caribbean themed,” said Maria Gimma, the new director for Camp Owahta. “The camp counselors will dress as pirates and be in character for a week. And we’ll be having a treasure hunt.”

Cheryl Hicks of Homer brought her two grandkids, Rachel Levine and Sam Julian, also from Homer. Rachel loves nature, though she hasn’t attended the camp before; Sam has attended the camp for one day previously. Hicks’s own children have attended the camp when they were younger and she occasionally goes horse-riding on the trails at the camp.

“I’m the only one in my family who doesn’t do electronics all day,” Rachel said.

The camp plans to continue having the traditional camp activities — arts and crafts, swim lessons, kayaking, hiking, and the ga-ga pit, a combination of soccer and dodge ball where you only use your feet and can’t hit another person above the waist. Board games are available in the mess hall for rainy days.

Gimma’s assistant, Madison Eckhart, an early childhood education major at SUNY Cortland, has been involved with the camp for 10 years. She originally came as a camper, but after seeing all the fun her brother was having as a camp counselor, she decided it was her turn.

“It’s fun being outdoors with the kids all day, seeing them use their imagination and not being inside all day,” Eckhart said.

Gimma wants the surrounding community to know about the opportunities available for children at the camp.

“Camp is a form of child care for over the summer,” Gimma said. “It allows the kids to make friends outside of their school district, and some of those friendships can last a lifetime.”