By chris kelly
I t has always been about more than killing time.
In 1926, when John Cittadino created Seashore Day Camp his idea was to create a program where parents could send their kids to gain valuable experience interacting with others. Seventy-five years later that same principle remains.
Though under different ownership, Cittadino’s simple philosophy is the driving idea behind the Long Branch institution today.
"We want to provide a positive, safe environment where the kids are constantly learning and having fun," said camp director John Villapiano.
According to Villapiano, it was during the 1920s that day camps were created because parents wanted their kids to do more than hang out at the beach.
Under the guidance of the Villapiano family, the former day camp has become a well-regarded educational institution, as well, where working parents can leave their children content in the knowledge that it is more than a baby-sitting service.
It was the late Gus Villapiano who first began to think of Seashore as an educational facility, when he began a nursery school program at the Broadway location.
"It’s interesting the way the education component of the camp began," Director John Villapiano said. "My father developed a half-day nursery program in 1978 to supplement his pension.
"It was when I came back in the ’70s that I saw there was a huge potential — need really — by parents to have a quality child care program for their kids on a full-day basis."
He noted that the camps had established a reputation for helping children develop athletically and build self-confidence, and much of that ideal has been carried over into the facility’s educational program.
The camps themselves are more educational than ever.
The days when kids solely participated in competitive athletics all day long are long past.
Instead, along with the standard sports activities, Seashore offers arts and crafts, roller-skating, ice skating, beach activities and much more.
And all those daily activities are bolstered by a raft of special activities that occurs each week. The Villapiano family has turned Fridays at the camp into special theme days. Water, Caribbean, Wrestling and Circus Days are only a few of the special events the campers get to participate in to make their summers memorable.
In fact, campers have been practicing with the performers from the Circus of the Kids program and will display the skills they developed in time for the 75th anniversary celebration on Saturday,
Circus of the Kids is preparing the campers to put on a show that includes globe-walking, forming body pyramids, jumping through hoops of fire and even eating fire.
The Villapiano family first became involved with the camp when Gus Villapiano became the director full time after World War II. His children, who run the camp now, actually were campers.
"It’s funny," said John Villapiano, "in my lifetime I have only spent three summers away from Seashore since I was a camper."
Another interesting fact about the 160 employees of the camp is that about 60 percent were once campers themselves. In addition, about 80 percent of the campers are returnees from the previous year.
Past and present campers and their parents are invited to the join the festivities Saturday, July 7 from noon to 4 p.m.