Resilient Neighborhoods: These 3 Detroit nonprofits are offering fun summer activities for kids

Summer is right around the corner, and Dowtin Jr. couldn't be happier. The elementary schooler is looking forward to attending the annual LifeBUILDERS summer day camp program, which takes place in Regent Park, the Detroit neighborhood where he lives.

"I'm excited and ready," he says. "We do fun activities. I make friends. You get gymDavon Downtin Jr. and Charles Reeder activities. We do a lot of stuff." 

The summer of 2022 will mark LifeBUILDERS 12th year holding the annual day camp. Based in Regent Park, LifeBUILDERS is a faith-based Christian community development organization dedicated to serving the northeast Detroit community of about 10,000 residents.

The camp is just one of the many spokes in the nonprofit's wheelhouse, which also includes building housing renovation work, senior outreach and youth programming like flag football, mentorship, and summer employment. 

This year the day camp will be taking place between June 27 and July 15 at St. Thomas Lutheran Church, a short ways down the road from Regent Park in Eastpointe. The program, which is open to youth in grades 1-6, takes place Monday through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

The camp's programming offers a mix of indoor and outdoor activities that include science projects, cooking classes, games, singing, and bible lessons as well as electives like crafts, LEGOs, and basketball. 

Geared towards Regent Park youth, the day camp accepts 150 youth each year. Larry Johnson, co-founder and executive director of LifeBUILDERS, says the organization started the camp to fill a need that wasn't being met in Regent Park.

"Honestly the Lord just laid it on our hearts," he says. "Kids here in our under-resourced community don't get many affordable opportunities to do really cool things. When we started out the first camp we had about 50 kids, and it just kept growing and growing."

This year's camp will feature a special collaboration with Camp Michawana, another faith-based Christian organization that runs its own camp in Hastings, Michigan. Counselors from Michawana will be bringing their expertise to Regent Park for a special mini-camp they'll be holding with LifeBUILDERS from June 9-11. Among other things, the mini-camp will feature t-shirt tie-dying, volleyball games and water balloon fights. Then, after the third week of the LifeBUILDERS day camp, a portion of participating youth will have the opportunity to travel to Camp Michawana in Hastings itself for a week-long overnight camp.

Davon's cousin, Charles Reeder, will also be attending LifeBUILDERS summer camp this June. The 14-year-old has been participating in the day camp since the third grade, but this year he's going to be attending as a counselor.

"I really like the interaction you have with other kids there and the counselors," he says. "And that it's so Christ-focused and that you learn about the word while still having fun."

Charles' mother, Stacy Kallapure, is appreciative of the program and what participating in it has meant for him. 

"Its given him an a chance to do activities that he really really likes to do [like] arts and crafts," she says."And as a [former] Sunday school teacher just to hear him talk about the Bible and know it freely and be able to experience the things he does has been very heartwarming to me."

Central Detroit Summer Camp 

Another camp that's been popular with Detroit youth can be found a little closer to the geographic heart of the Motor City. Central Detroit Christian (CDC) has been hosting its own annual summer day camp for more than two decades. It's part of aCDC Summer Day Camp larger curriculum of youth programming that also includes year-round tutoring and educational enrichment classes.

This year's six-week long camp will be taking place at 1550 Taylor Street from June 28 to August 4, Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The faith-based nonprofit's free program will feature a mix of arts and crafts, sports, literacy education, gardening, interactive field trips and bible lessons.

Of special interest this year will be a partnership between CDC and Neighborhood Arts School (NAS).  Billy and Sarah Marks of NAS will be collaborating with the camp's youth to create an original theater production based on the history of the neighborhood, including CDC's headquarters which previously served as the home to  both the Tried Stone Baptist Church and a synagogue known as the Taylor Shul. 

Kyle Lake,  CDC's program director, says the summer camp is intended to be a place of refuge and strength for local kids, many of whom may be dealing with issues like poverty or violence.

"We want our kids to understand the importance of community and also our goal is to remind them that they're loved," he says. "Our goal is to not only be with them, but to raise up future leaders who can be a part of and run this day camp for years to come."

Summer Fun in Woodbridge

Parents in Detroit's Woodbridge neighborhood also have plenty of summer fun options to consider for their children, thanks to Woodbridge Neighborhood Development (WDN) and a variety of local partners.

"We're excited to offer quality of life fitness programs, yoga and tai chi. and extensive reading arts and crafts and sports for kids Monday through Thursday in Scripps Park," says Rienna Stewart, WDN's director of communications andYouth at Scripps Park programming.

The summer's activities, which kick off regularly near the tail-end of June, will be taking place Monday through Thursdays at Scripps Park. Many of the events are being put together in collaboration with the Detroit Public Library's Douglass Branch and will feature an "Oceans of Possibility" theme. They include arts and crafts days, summer reading fun programs and other activities like a magic show, mad science under the sea workshop, instrument "petting zoo, and meetups with mermaids and Spongebob Squarepants. The Monday through Thursday events will be paired with a Meetup and Eat Up program offering free lunch meals to youth ages 18 and younger. 

Detroit Audubon will also be holding several bird watching events at Scripps Park. The recreation area will also be the site of Westside PLAY!. Led by the Motor City Grounds Crew (MCGC), the program helps provide neighborhood kids with a safe place to play and encourages exposure to sports like field hockey and lacrosse. WDN is partnering with MCGC to hold the event at Scripps on Thursdays. Westside PLAY will also take place this summer in Northwest Goldberg and Virginia Park through a collaboration with the NW Goldberg Cares and 360 Detroit nonprofits. A full listing of WDN summer events can be found on the nonprofit's online calendar.

Resilient Neighborhoods is a reporting and engagement series that examines how Detroit residents and community development organizations are working together to strengthen local neighborhoods. It's made possible with funding from the Kresge Foundation.
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Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.