No summer camp at Treetops in '08

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By Jenny Hartley

VAN WYCK – The woods at Camp TreeTops will remain quiet this summer.

The 624-acre Van Wyck camp, which serves children through The Family Center in Charlotte, served 458 children at summer camps last year, said camp executive director Kristy Davis. Due to some strategic changes and funding issues, Davis said, the camps will not be offered this summer.

"There's not a nonprofit in the world right now that's not struggling," Davis said. "We're taking the summer off. Hang in there with us. We're not going anywhere."

The Family Center is looking at other programs that could be offered next summer. Davis said the camp will be back for sure in 2009. She's excited about the plans in the works, but can't elaborate on them right now.

"I really think it's going to be bigger, better and beyond," Davis said.

"I think it's going to be wonderful," Davis said.

The camp serves children ages 6 to 16 who have never had the opportunity to go to summer camp before, at a low cost of $50 a week. They get a true camp experience, participating in arts and crafts, biking, campfire activities, canoeing, fishing, hiking, swimming, wildlife exploration and team-building exercises.

While Davis is looking forward to some changes, she is definitely going to miss the children this summer.

"Oh my goodness, yes," she said. "This is such a beautiful place. It's not going to be the same. It's not the same without the laughter."

The land for TreeTops was given by Fred Wikoff. He asked that the land always be used for children, and that senior citizens be used for programs there. Volunteers from Sun City Carolina Lakes, a community for adults age 55 and up, stepped up in a big way last year and provided meals for children at the summer camp.

The camp has a 17-acre lake, two air-conditioned cabins that sleep 16 people each and three yurts that sleep 10 people each. It also has a lake house and an outdoor chapel.

The facilities are available for rental by individuals, businesses and organizations for retreats and other events.

The Family Center is one of Charlotte's oldest and most respected child abuse prevention agencies, according to its Web site, www.thefamilycenter.net.

The Family Center also offers therapeutic, educational and preventative services to children and families.

Just because summer camp won't be offered this year doesn't mean there's any intention of selling TreeTops, Davis said.

"That would never happen," she said. "It's not legally protected from development, but everyone is abiding by his (Fred Wikoff's) wishes."

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151