The price of summer fun is also rising

A campfire

TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: Ghost stories, food fights, and poison oak.
I'm having flashbacks of a bad haircut at age 11 and the nickname "Dutch Boy." It's summer camp season.

With money tight, a lot parents worry the cost of all that fun may be getting too high. Caitlan Carroll has this report on what the industry is doing to keep the campfires burning.


Caitlan Carroll: At Pali Adventure camp outside of L.A., the list of activities reads like a kid's wildest summer fantasy. Horseback riding, jet skiing, hip hop dancing . . .

Ashley Wald: And then Hollywood stunt camp you jump off of cars . . .

Teenager Ashley Wald is going back to Pali for her third summer. Her dad, Jeff Wald, says the $1,500-a-week price tag for the overnight camp is steep but worth it.

Jeff Wald: I would not want her to not have this experience, so whatever the cost is going to be we're going to have to eat that cost.

More parents are eating that cost this year. A lot of families signed up for camp in the winter, before gas and food prices took off. Now they say they have to cut back on summer spending to pay for camp.

Peg Smith is with the American Camp Association:

Peg Smith: We find that the last dollar a parent will cut from their budget is the dollar that they invest in their children.

Smith says many parents are sending their kids to day camps instead of overnight ones. To help keep enrollments up, camps are also increasing discounts and scholarship programs.

Eric Naftulin: Careful, careful, we've got to wait on the water guns . . .

At the open house for the Aloha Beach Camp in Malibu, kids attack each other with water guns while their parents check out the camp set up.

Naftulin: This is our campsite on the sand . . .

Aloha offers busses to help out working parents. Camp owner Eric Naftulin says that's one reason why enrollment at his beach camp has ticked up 30 percent. But it's not this year he's worried about.

Naftulin: I think you're going start feeling the pinch of this more next year than now.

But for Laurie Bereny, camp's not just a luxury for her son, Brian -- it's a necessity for her. Bereny works full-time.

Laurie Bereny: It has to be done. But I try to limit, there was a sleep away he wanted to go to for two weeks but it's not worth it. I mean, it's what I make in a summer.

ACA's Peg Smith says parents should keep in mind that many day camps do qualify for tax breaks. She also points out that camp can be a positive place for kids as families go through tough times.

Smith: I think parents inherently, particularly during challenging times, want to preserve what I call the rite of passage. They want to preserve childhood.

Even if letting their kids roast marshmallows burns a hole through their pockets.

In Los Angeles, I'm Caitlan Carroll for Marketplace.

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