The Boys' and Girls' Club is considered the oldest day camp in the United States. With most buildings dating from the 1890s and the turn of the century, the Boys' and Girls' Club grows out of a Chautauqua tradition of excellence in sports and physical education.
Seaver Gymnasium (1890) was originally built to house a gymnastics school and was one of the first gyms to install a basketball court when that sport was invented over 100 years ago. Club's newer structures include the Beeson Youth Center (1968), which replaced the venerable Athletic Club Building (1905), and the Sharpe Field grandstand, built in 1993 following a fire on July 5, 1991, which destroyed the previous structure. Extensive renovations to all Club buildings were completed in 2001 as part of the "Chautauqua 2000" long range plan.
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The purpose of the Boys' and Girls' Club is to provide an opportunity for young people ages 7-15 to actively participate in a safe and supportive recreational day camp on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution. The programs and facilities allow for a diverse set of activities that take full advantage of Chautauqua's natural and cultural resources. The Boys' and Girls' Club encourages personal growth for participants and professional growth for staff. The enjoyment and appreciation of lifelong skills are emphasized, and the importance of Club as a source of lasting Chautauqua relationships is recognized and nurtured.
The Boys' and Girls' Club is directed by Greg Prechtl. Mr. Prechtl is the athletic director at the State University of NY at Fredonia. An experienced camp administrator, he has served as director of the Chautauqua Boys' and Girls' Club for the past 26 seasons. The staff at the Boys' and Girls' Club includes adults (the majority are teachers), college and high school students. Each camper group is staffed with a head counselor and one or two assistant counselors. A counselor-in-training program provides skill-building and practical experiences for 16 year olds preparing to become counselors. Waterfront counselors hold current "CPR for the Professional Rescuer" credentials as well as American Red Cross Lifeguard certification or equivalent. Many of the specialty areas are directed by experienced adults (music, arts, nature and crafts). Sailing experiences are provided by the trained staff of Chautauqua's Sailing Department. Boys' and Girls' Club enjoys a high rate of returning staff each year.
Participants in the Boys' and Girls' Club program are grouped according to the grade they will be entering in the fall (e.g. Group 4 for children entering 4th grade). The oldest group at Club is called SAC (Senior Athletic Club, a traditional name dating to the earliest days of the program) and serves those youth entering the 9th and 10th grades. Maximum group size is 36 campers with three counselors. Typical group size is 25-30 in a given week. Each day at Boys' and Girls' Club includes four morning activity periods of 45 minutes each (9 a.m.-noon) and two afternoon sessions of one hour each (2-4 p.m.). The rotation of various activities within this schedule is different each day. An example of a typical day might be: canoes/kayaks, first period; field games, second period; instructional swim, third period; Seaver gym, fourth period; music, fifth period; and arts and crafts, sixth period. Other days could include free swim, nature, sailing, volleyball, tennis or special events as well. Some activities (e.g. sailing, swimming) are guided by age and/or skill levels. Older groups (8 and SAC) may choose "electives" in the afternoon. In general, Boys' and Girls' Club offers a diverse, recreational, largely outdoor day camp program combining active play, the arts, waterfront sports and special enrichment events. The program stresses the safety and well-being of children and recognizes the value of building friendships.
Young people enrolled in the Boys' and Girls' Club may make whatever arrangements are most appropriate for their age and family dynamic. They may walk, ride a bicycle with a parent, sibling, babysitter or on their own, or utilize the public bus/tram system that travels the Chautauqua grounds 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. If you are driving your child to Club (from outside the grounds), you must enter via the Bryant Gate. Special arrangements have been made to open the Bryant Gate for Club participants only and following a schedule tied to Club's hours of operation. The gate will be open daily 8:40-9:15 a.m., 11:40 a.m.-12:15 p.m., 1:40-2:15 p.m., and 3:40-4:15 p.m. Drive straight down Bryant to the foot of the hill adjacent to the tennis courts. Youth may be dropped off at that location, and vehicles can exit by returning directly to the Bryant Gate. If parents need to accompany their child (e.g. on the first day of attendance), they may park their car temporarily at the turn-around area at the foot of Bryant. Vehicle traffic and parking are not permitted in any other areas at Boys' and Girls' Club.
Frequently Asked Questions
✔ Will my child go swimming each day at Club?
With a waterfront campus, Boys' and Girls' Club places an emphasis on water safety and water-based activities. Sailing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and water games are all part of the weekly schedule. Swimming instruction is a daily activity for all but the oldest groups, and is important for maintaining a safe waterfront, building lifetime skills, and supporting the other water-based programs. The staff needs the support of families in emphasizing the importance of swimming at Club. Water shoes are recommended. Parent questions and input are always welcome.
✔ What do the children do noon-2 p.m?
The program is in recess noon-2 p.m. each day. There are many opportunities for young people to take advantage of other facilities and programs at Chautauqua including the beaches, the library, and the Special Studies curriculum. Parents are encouraged to refer to the babysitting list, available through the Youth Services Office, if they need to make childcare arrangements.
✔ What happens at Club if it rains?
Each group has a rain schedule in addition to their regular daily schedule. A variety of indoor activities are provided according to this schedule.
✔ What regulations or guidelines impact the operation of Boys' & Girls' Club?
The Boys' and Girls' Club operates under a day camp permit granted by the New York State Department of Health. Counselor-to-camper ratios (1:12), waterfront staff certifications, safety and emergency plans, water quality, and available medical staff support are all requirements of the permit-granting procedure.
✔ May I register my child for single days or half days?
Registration at Club (and Children's School, Group One) is for a minimum of one full week in order for each child to have access to all elements of the program and to have the opportunity to build friendships within their group.
✔ Will my child need extra money for Boys' and Girls' Club?
Children may need a small amount of additional money for specific crafts projects. Off-grounds field trips for the older groups (Darien Lake, Allegheny River Canoe Trip, etc.) are optional and usually require an additional fee.
✔ What is the best time to register for Club?
Group size is limited and preregistration is strongly recommended. Many groups routinely reach capacity and late registrants are turned away. Minimum registration is one week. You may register by phone from early January until late June, by Calling the Ticket Office at (716) 357-6250. Group size is limited, and some groups will reach capacity. During the season, registration is possible during Club hours (Monday- Friday, 9 a.m.-noon and 2:00-4:00 p.m.) Registration also takes place on Sunday afternoon (noon-3 p.m.)at the Colonnade.