MATTHEWS – C.O.S.Kids opened in the early 1990s and originally served as an outreach to single mothers.
For the more than 20 years since, it has become a pillar of the community as it continues to help with daycare for infants and toddlers, preschool, after-school care and a number of different enrichment opportunities.
The nonprofit also offers camps that are unlike any other experience children can get this summer.
“I feel like in the past five or six years we’ve done a lot to upgrade our program, our curriculum and our facility,” said C.O.S. Executive Director Sue Sproat. “We’ve tried to expand on our services and fill a niche. I don’t think there’s anybody else quite like us.”
There are many reasons Sproat, who has overseen much of the growth since joining C.O.S.Kids in 2013, thinks the summer camps are unique experiences.
First is the hours. Unlike many summer camps that run from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 p.m., C.O.S.Kids is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to accommodate working parents and their schedules that don’t slow down over the summer.
Next, C.O.S.Kids stresses outside learning and playtime. Each week of camp will be centered around changing themes that will run the duration of the week, but differ for each of the 10 summer sessions.
In addition, C.O.S.Kids works closely with the Matthews Christian Library, Brace YMCA, Hampton Green swimming pool, Matthews Playhouse, Windsor Run retirement facility, Vacation Bible Schools at First Baptist Matthews and Cross and Crown Lutheran churches, Soccer Shots at Elevation Church and, for the first time this year, First Tee of Charlotte golf lessons.
“We’ve worked really hard to build up the collaboration within the community,” Sproat said. “We’re trying to pack it all in there, and we think we offer priceless experiences they probably don’t get to ever do.”
Another huge advantage of C.O.S.Kids is their continued work with single-parent families. Sproat said up to half of the children that attend camp will be kids from one-parent homes who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend camp.
She said C.O.S.Kids offers assistance for single parents in some cases up to half off.
But Sproat said no matter if the child needs assistance or not, the experience they get at C.O.S.Kids will be unlike anything else they’d be able to get elsewhere.
“The outreach to single-family parents is what makes us different,” Sproat said. “These are children that very often don’t have any other place to go. They don’t typically go on vacation, grandma weeks and things like that, so we really are their home away from home.
“We’ve learned over time that so many of our clients live in apartment complexes where they literally never go outside to play except when they’re with us. That puts a new emphasis on outdoor learning, setting their brains to that healthy lifestyle and just having that joy of the outdoors and nature. We pack as much of that as we can in addition to all of the other enrichment things that we do and try to capture the things we think a parent would want their child to be doing if they had the time and the resources.”
With its focus on enrichment, community involvement and social interaction, as well as a staff that keeps class sizes small and the curriculum engaging, there really may not be another summer camp experience quite like the one at C.O.S.Kids.
“I’d expect it’s going to be the best week of their summer,” Sproat said. “We think we have enough packed in there that even if kids can only come for one week, it will be something they’ll remember. I love the phrase ‘Keeping the child in childhood,’ and we’re going to make sure they get to do all of those fun things that they would otherwise only dream about doing.”