Sacramento summers bring long, sunny days, blistering heat and, for most kids, a few months' break from school. This poses an issue for working parents who can't watch their kids during the workday or afford expensive summer camp programs to keep their children busy. Unfortunately, free summer camps in Sacramento are few and far between – but they're out there, for qualifying low-income families.
Salvation Army Summer Camp
The Sacramento Citadel Corps Community Center offers summer camps through the Salvation Army that are free of cost. The week-long camp is aimed toward local disadvantaged youth, and includes character building programs with the Boys' Adventure Corps, Girl Guards and Sunbeams. It also features vocal and instrumental music lessons.
The camp is offered to children in Sacramento County in English by default, but other languages are available by arrangement. Families can apply to send their children to camp at the Citadel Corps Community Center either by phone at (916) 469-4600 or via walk-in at 2550 Alhambra Blvd. in Sacramento.
The 4th "R" Day Care
The City of Sacramento provides a year-round childcare program called the 4th “R” for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. It's available for children in the Natomas, Sacramento and Twin Rivers school districts, and the camps are located on elementary school campuses. Camp staff focuses on providing group and individual activities to keep kids physically, socially and emotionally engaged.
Free and reduced-cost care is available with the 4th “R” for qualifying families. Parents just have to complete the children eligibility list application to see if they can receive a subsidy for the childcare program. The 4th “R” registers campers on a first-come, first-served basis.
SPCA Camp Kindness
This program offers financial support to families whose kids want to spend their summer learning about companion animals. Children attending Camp Kindness with the Sacramento SPCA will develop animal awareness through games, crafts, tours, guest speakers, educational activities, professional demonstrations, observing veterinaries and discussions.
The Barbara Wortell Education Fund provides financial assistance for children of low-income families. Each program session application includes information about the financial assistance.
Sacramento Zoo Education Programs
The Sacramento Zoo offers education programs for children at all economic levels, with scholarships available for qualifying families. Scholarships vary depending on each family's financial need, and the Sacramento Zoo offers only a partial scholarship per child.
The zoo offers a summer camp scholarship, which assists families in sending their children to a camp class with the Sacramento Zoo. The scholarship application is available online at the Sacramento Zoo's website, and parents can email the completed application to the zoo's education department.
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Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She covers topics including environment, education, agriculture, travel, immigration and religion. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, Calif., and holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University. Swanston is an avid traveler and loves jazz, yoga and craft beer.