BBB provides tips for finding safe summer camps

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COLUMBIA - Camp Hickory Hill, a summer camp for children with diabetes, is preparing for its upcoming season.

The camp is currently rebuilding a cabin damaged during recent storms, and volunteers are helping to get the 77 acres of land in shape.

Just as camps are starting to prepare for the summer season, parents might be scrambling to pick the right summer camp for their kids.

The Better Business Bureau, or BBB, suggests parents send their children to summer camps certified by the American Camp Association (ACA). Camp Hickory Hill is one of few ACA accredited camps in mid-Missouri. 

The camp's emphasis on safety helps it stand out. Camp Hickory Hill Development Director, Frank La Mantia, said campers are supervised 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

"No one kid is roaming around the camp without a counselor present," he said. 

La Mantia also talked about the camp's effort to make kids feel at home.  

"When the kids arrive to camp they think they're the only ones with [diabetes]...but once they get to camp they see other kids [with diabetes] and they feel very happy," he said. 

La Mantia said this bond between campers helps them deal with homesickness. 

The BBB offers the following advice to help parents find safe and rewarding summer camps for children:

1. Always visit the camp before submitting your deposit. Inspect its location and its living, eating and recreational facilities. Ask about safety procedures (especially for water activities, archery and out-of-camp trips) and assess the quality and commitment of the staff.

2. Ask about fees and payment deadlines. Find out if your deposit is refundable, if there are extra charges for activities, and if meals and transportation are offered.

3. Find out how many campers and counselors return each year.

4. Find out the camp director's background. Are criminal checks mandated for employees and volunteers? What is the ratio of campers to staff members?

5. Ask about medical facilities. Is there a nurse or doctor on site? What are the procedures for transporting injured or sick children to medical facilities? Are those facilities nearby?

6. Find out the safety rules and how they are enforced. Does the camp have appropriate insurance coverage?

7. Find out how homesickness is handled. Are family visits or other communications with campers allowed?

8. Ask if references from parents of repeat campers are available. Ask the parents about their child's experience and why they recommend the camp.

For information about specific camps, The BBB recommends parents check a BBB Business Review.