BEST CHILDREN'S PROGRAM

Sparrow's Michigan Athletic Club • East Lansing, MI

“Grease” may have been the word in popular youth musicals several decades ago, but now the Disney Channel's “High School Musical” series is the last word on what's cool for school.

Sparrow's Michigan Athletic Club (MAC) in East Lansing, MI, created its own version of the popular series to generate awareness for its youth dance program and create a short-term revenue project.

“I didn't realize how popular the ‘High School Musical’ series was when we started, but the music itself is quite catchy, and the kids knew all the words to the songs before they even got to camp,” says Tracy Holtzer, MAC dance coordinator. “It's the new ‘Grease’ for them — a generational musical that will stick with these kids for many years to come.”

Holtzer and the MAC staff put together a three-week summer camp program called MAC School Musical based on the Disney series for kids aged 6 to 12. Each week featured a different play with acting, singing and dancing opportunities for campers.

The highlight of each week was a final performance for parents, complete with school-themed costumes and props. Holtzer stresses that prior planning was imperative for a successful camp.

“We put a lot of effort into planning the camp. We wrote the scripts, created props and choreography appropriately for each age group,” Holtzer says. “Prior planning equals quality results. There was a great energy and atmosphere created at camp.”

As campers memorized lines and choreography, they also enhanced their team-building skills and self-esteem, she says. Organizers were careful to split up the musical's parts to ensure that each child had a role.

“Each child was given an equal opportunity at camp, and the parents really appreciated that because in this day and age, the most talented kids always get the most roles,” says Holtzer. “But when you're 6 years old, how do you really know what your talents are yet?”

Each successive week of camp grew increasingly more popular. Week two saw a 20 percent increase in enrollment, while week three enjoyed an 86 percent jump in attendees over the first week.

Cost for a week of camp was $80 for members and $100 for nonmembers. Week one brought in $995 in revenue, week two earned $1,265 and week three earned $1,735. The earnings exceeded the club's revenue projection, which was $600 for the first week.

MAC created posters to advertise the camps throughout the club, as well as fliers for the service desk. In addition, it ran free newspaper ads in the community events section of the paper and sent an e-mail blast to former students with this year's camp dates.

The camps proved to be a good draw for the club's year-round youth dance program. Of this summer's 47 participants, nine of those students enrolled in multiple camps, and 13 became regular dance program participants. Holtzer says younger siblings of this year's campers are excited to be old enough to attend next year.

“We continue to have parents ask what other classes they can enroll their kids in after the summer is over,” says Holtzer. “Initially, we weren't sure what to expect, but when the parents would bring their child into the club every day, they'd communicate about how excited the kids were to come. They said the kids were more excited about it than any other camp they'd been to.”