If you’re one of those many people who, in the last half-dozen years or so, has asked Lauren Morenz if her Indian Acres Swim Club would add year-round programming to its stable of popular summer camps, your time has come.
As of later this year, the answer is yes.
Morenz, who owns the longtime Champaign club with husband Joel, is adding two school-year options: a preschool (Camp Little Arrow for 3- and 4-year-olds) and an afterschool program (IA After School for 5- to 14-year-olds).
Indian Acres has offered summer camps since the 1940s. The swim club began in 1959, Lorenz said. But for most of the year, the multi-pool facility stood quietly without activity.
“We’re super excited about it,” Lorenz said of the additional programs. “It’s going to be really fun. This property is meant to be brimming with children. It’s meant to have kids running the 3 acres and in the pools. So we’re just so excited to bring that energy and spirit there year-round — to give these children that sense of community, because that’s really what it is.”
IA After School is a 40-week program that runs from 2-6 p.m. IA will provide transportation from Unit 4 elementary schools, and it will follow the Unit 4 school calendar. (Full-day programming will be offered on those weekdays in which school is not in session.)
“The big thing that will set us apart is we will offer swim lessons and free swim during weather-appropriate times,” Lorenz said. “The good news for our membership as well is it is going to extend our pool season. So we’re pretty excited about that. It’s something they’ve been wanting for a while. We’re looking (to keep pools open) probably through the month of September. We are working on heating at least one pool, so hopefully we’ll be able to start our season earlier, as in early May.”
Additionally, the after-school program will feature academic tutors in conjunction with IA’s relationship with the University of Illinois. Veteran Champaign-Urbana educator Barbara Bracewell has been hired to direct the program.
Camp Little Arrow is a 37-week program in which participants can choose a two-, three- or five-day option. “It solely focuses on kindergarten readiness and movement and learning through movement,” Lorenz said. “It’s essentially a preschool camp but we’ve worked with different professionals in our area to develop a curriculum based on what is lacking in our community’s programming in terms of what they’re seeing post-COVID and where the shortcomings are. Our goal is to fill that gap for the 3- and 4-year-olds.”
IA members, as is the case with summer camps, will receive a discount for enrollment in the new programs. Lorenz said IA has 60 spots available with “the capability of going up to 75. We do think it will fill quickly.” (Registration for all IA programs is open — click here for more information.)
Finally, after navigating a tricky landscape that included COVID shutdowns, IA is ready for the next step in its evolution.
“We’ve just been rebuilding since we bought the club in 2016,” Lorenz said. “Really rebuilding the membership and building the camp program again. We’ve been so hesitant. And then after 2020, we had to rebuild again. It wasn’t until last year that, looking at the numbers and sharing feedback from our families, I thought we’ll be OK. It’s time to jump.
“The feeling was our level of commitment to our community, which really showed up for us after 2020 and the closures we were forced into. There’s such a need in the community, and that spoke mostly to me in how to reach more families and ‘How do we give back to our community?’ when they gave so much to us.”