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KNOXVILLE — Going to summer camp has been a fun activity for children for many generations.

When choosing a camp for your child, parents should learn what is offered and ask questions to ensure the experience at the camp will be worthwhile.

Gene Hayes, a professor of therapeutic recreation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers five strategies for parents looking for a summer camp. Hayes is the founder and organizer of Camp Koinonia, a residential camp for children with disabilities that is staffed by UT students.

Here are five tips:

1. Check for Accreditation — Camps should meet minimum requirements set by the American Camp Association. The ACA checks some 300 standards that include staff-to-camper ratios, emergency preparedness and first-aid facilities. A good staff-to-camper ratio is one staff member for every five campers. To verify accreditation, visit the ACA Web site at http://www.acacamps.org/ or call 1-800-428-CAMP.

2. Tour the Camp — Visit the camp facility and meet the staff. Make sure the administrators and counselors are competent.

3. Be Prepared — Ask how the camp is prepared for emergencies such as serious injuries. Provide various phone numbers in case the camp needs to contact you, and ask for an emergency contact number at the camp in case you need to notify your child of an emergency at home.

4. Study the Schedule — Learn what activities are offered at the camp, and let the staff know if your child has any restrictions. Find out if staff members are qualified to supervise activities such as horseback riding, canoeing and riflery. Sign up for activities in advance if possible.

5. Add It Up — Find out what is covered in the cost of the camp. The fees charged should be in line with the services and activities that are provided. Check to see if you need any special insurance.

Hayes started Camp Koinonia in 1977 at Virginia Tech. He joined the UT faculty in 1984, and added Camp Koinonia to the curriculum two years later. Thousands of children with disabilities have participated in the camp that is held every spring through the Department of Exercise, Sport and Leisure Studies.


Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179, elizabeth.davis@tennessee.edu