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Center for Hope, Sewickley YMCA join forces for second year

Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Joseph Kovach, 8, plays in the pool at the Sewickley Valley YMCA on Monday, July 7, 2014. Kovach is one of about 15 children who are bussed from the Center for Hope in Ambridge to the YMCA to attend the summer camp for free.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

For the second consecutive summer, the Sewickley Valley YMCA has partnered with the Center for Hope in Ambridge to provide a summer-camp experience for children who otherwise would not have the means to attend one.

Camp started June 23 and will run through July 25. It will host about 25 children on four days each week.

The idea for the camp began last summer and originally was four weeks long, with campers spending two days each week at the Center for Hope and two at the YMCA, spokeswoman Amy Richardson said.

“The Center for Hope reached out to the YMCA, and what they were finding was kids were coming to the center in the summer for a couple of reasons,” Richardson said. “They would receive lunch, for one, and it was air conditioned and a place to go. But they didn't have the space or the facilities to have what we have here as far as camps.”

The partnership was so much of a success that this summer, when Center for Hope Director Sue Otto asked the children what they wanted out of their camp experience, they asked to add a week and spend all four days at the YMCA, Richardson said.

“For the kids to have the experience that they otherwise wouldn't afford is just wonderful for them,” Otto said. “It gets them moving, exercising and socializing in new ways.”

In addition to the five-week camp, the YMCA offered to bus children over to its Splash Week — five straight days of free swimming lessons culminating with a pizza party.

The week was designed to help the children build confidence around the pool so that when they came to camp they would be able to more fully enjoy their time in the water, Richardson said.

“For us, it's not just teaching them swim lessons,” she said. “It's teaching them to be safe in and around water.

Center for Hope campers at the YMCA get to do the same activities that any other campers would, except for field trips because of shortened camp hours.

They have a set of counselors dedicated entirely to the Center for Hope's time at the YMCA.

“We were fortunate to have some of last year's counselors get hired back,” Richardson said. “For the kids, that's really exciting because they get really attached.”

In conjunction with the camp, the YMCA is asking for month-specific donations to help the Center for Hope, rather than just financial contributions, for its Good Deed of the Month. Donations sought include healthy snacks for the children's food pantry in June, back-to-school supplies in July and pancake mix and syrup in August.

“The kids are treated so well. I can't say enough good things about the YMCA,” Otto said. “They notice things. The people are very kind and look out for the whole person.”

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @GHorvath_Trib.

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