Happy campers: This savvy Cleveland Heights teen is helping save summer camp for local kids

Talk about a cure for the summertime blues! There’s a new kind of summer camp on the block, thanks to one enterprising Cleveland Heights teen.


Having grown up attending summer camp at The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, 13-year-old Kate Jaycox was heartbroken when most camps were effectively cancelled this year due to COVID-19. But in May, she started percolating on a solution: what if she could start a small summer camp of her own?


“My mom had been talking to our neighbors, and I knew many parents were panicking as camps were being cancelled and they had to figure out what to do with their kids for the summer,” explains Jaycox. “I sent out my flyer at the sweet spot timing-wise, and the rest is history.”


Enter Kamp Kate, a seven-week summer camp that Jaycox runs out of a roving red wagon painted purple. With the motto “Bringing Summer Camp to Your Kids’ Backyard,” Jaycox brings the time-honored traditions of arts and crafts, story time, games, and theme weeks—such as Fantasy Week and Beach Week—to neighboring families. Campers also get T-shirts and stickers bearing the Kamp Kate logo.


“Having attended summer camp for many years and also having been a junior counselor gave me a lot of experience [to pull from],” shares Jaycox, who attends Laurel School in Shaker Heights.

Currently, Jaycox works with five families with kids ranging in age from two to six; each family receives two private 90-minute sessions weekly. Jaycox spends the time between sessions sanitizing items before moving on to the next family. “Safety is a big deal right now, so I’m taking as many precautions as I can,” says Jaycox, who also wears a mask and practices social distancing.


So far, Jaycox says the makeshift camp has been a lot of fun, with her favorite activity being geocaching-themed backyard scavenger hunts. Jaycox hides “surprise eggs” around the yard with trinkets she’s collected over the years and gives the kids clues on how to find them. Other activities include planting mini-gardens and learning about fairies. 

Not only do the activities tap into Jaycox’s creativity, but they’re also honing her entrepreneurial skills as well. “Kamp Kate has taught me about making sure you have enough in your profits to buy what you need,” says Jaycox. “I’ve learned a lot about running a business in general and how much time, work, and effort goes into it – especially when it’s a one-woman business.”

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.