Pure JoyPure Joy


Whether you’re a camp veteran or this is your first time, we can help answer any questions you may have. Contact us at ce@myycamp.org if your question isn’t answered below! These orientation recordings from last year and current parent manuals can also help give you an idea of the basics. Check our social media or email us for our 2024 orientation dates!



day camp parent manual 2024

overnight parent manual 2024


There are many factors that go into deciding if a child is ready to attend camp.  Below are some of the core elements of our program that campers should meet.  If there are one or more items that your child does not meet yet, please give us a call at the office (859-586-6181) to discuss the particulars and see if camp would be a good fit for them at this time.

Campers must be:

  • age 6 to 15 (5 for intro programs) to participate in camp programming.
  • able to function with a 6 to 1 camper-to-counselor ratio.
  • able to take care of their own personal hygiene independently (getting dressed, showering, keeping track of belongings, etc).
  • able to handle the physical demands of camp, including walking between activities (up to one mile at a time and including steep hills), being outside for most of the day, etc. Camp days are much more physical and longer than school days.
  • willing and able to participate in a group setting (able to transition among activities with group, follow instructions from camp staff, remain with the group, take turns, ask for help).
  • Able to adapt to the camp environment, which at times can be loud, time spent in large groups or people, and fast paced.
  • capable of maintaining effective mental, emotional, physical and social interactions with self, campers, and staff.
  • able to interact effectively with individuals and groups respecting social and cultural diversity and maintains appropriate physical and emotional boundaries.
  • (For Overnight Camp): able to share personal space with at least 10 other people; able to sleep in a group setting (most cabins are open air and do not have air conditioning). Night time rituals can be done in a non-home setting.

Time spent at YMCA Camp Ernst is magical for thousands of young people every year. Campers are encouraged to unplug and connect with nature, friends, and themselves. Our staff encourage campers to build a stronger spirit, mind, and body, challenge themselves by trying new things and facing their fears, while cheering on and befriending fellow campers along the way. Everyone can confidently bring their authentic self to share in the magic of Camp Ernst.

Thank you for being a part of creating that magic.  We do this by building inclusive and joyful environments where all people can reach goals, make friends, and connect to a cause greater than themselves.

Camp Goal and Purpose

Provide youth with a community of caring adults who nurture experiential education that results in self-respect and appreciation for human value (ACA). Outcomes: improvement in self-esteem, peer relationships, independence, adventure and exploration, leadership, values and decisions making.

Our Definition of Youth Development

Youth Development is the social-emotional, cognitive, and physical process that all youth uniquely experience from birth to career, nourishing their need to be loved, spiritually grounded, educated, competent, and healthy.

The Role of Staff

Create an environment that facilitates positive youth development:

Nurturing, positive, warm, encouraging, inclusive and supportive of all youth.
All youth have potential. Understand the importance of personal boundaries and safe, welcoming environments.
• ACHIEVEMENT: Encourage and support youth’s developmental journeys.
• ACHIEVEMENT: Acknowledge youth efforts with appreciation.
• BELONGING: Ask questions.
• BELONGING: Listen to verbal and nonverbal responses.
• RELATIONSHIPS: Build relationships with youth.
• RELATIONSHIPS: Partner with youth and their families.

The Role of Parents and Caregiver

Parents and caregivers are their children’s primary source for love, acceptance, appreciation, encouragement, and guidance. They provide the most intimate context for the nurturing and protection of children as they develop their personalities and identities and also as they mature physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially.

Our Equity Statement

The Y is made up of people of all ages and from every walk of life working side by side to strengthen communities. Together, we work to ensure that everyone—of all abilities, ages, cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, faiths, gender identities, ideologies, incomes, nationalities, origins, races, or sexual orientations—are treated equitably.

We do this by building inclusive and joyful environments where all people can reach goals, make friends, and connect to a cause greater than themselves.


In addition to the administrative staff, there are more than 150 summer staff members each week. Many of our administrative team live on-site in the summer so they are present around-the-clock!

Many of our staff were campers at Camp Ernst and return year after year to offer the same transformative, magical camp experience to the next “generation.” The summer staff is recruited from past campers and staff, staff contacts, from area and national colleges and high schools, and international counselor programs. Prospective staff must complete an application, provide references and be interviewed. Applicants 18 and older must pass a criminal record check.

There is one week of staff training prior to the camp season with continual in-service training throughout the summer and year-round.

There are typically 10-12 campers per cabin with two cabin counselors. The cabin counselors participate with campers in the various activities during the day, eat with them and sleep in the same cabin. Cabins are assigned by the age and gender identity provided during the registration process.

Cabinmates can be requested if the campers are within 18 months of age of each other. Group requests are limited to 4-5 friends or fewer to help with cabin dynamics. Larger groups will be asked to split. Cabin assignments are emailed approximately one week prior to the session’s start.

Our discipline plan is designed to help children develop self-control and assume responsibility for their actions and impact. We are guided by our core values of honesty, caring, responsibility, and respect. Clear, age-appropriate rules and limits are established at camp. As in any group activity, inappropriate behavior by one or two children can challenge the experience for the entire group. Staff will approach typical, day-to-day behavior issues using acceptable techniques and approaches, such as: redirecting campers, rewarding positive behavior, encouraging campers to use “I” statements and talk about their feelings, role modeling on how to speak and interact with campers in a positive manner, and implementing time out when appropriate.


During each camp day, campers rotate to activity stations together with their friends in their cabin group and their camp counselors. Activities include fishing, archery, sports, crafts, games, pool, ropes course, and lake. Activities are designed to help campers connect with each other and with nature. Campers are encouraged to learn about the natural environment and do everything they can to protect it.

In the event of inclement weather, we make use of our indoor facilities and have alternative activities. Storm shelters are used when necessary. When it is exceptionally hot, campers are encouraged to drink water and swim. Other activities may be toned down as necessary.

Weeklong overnight campers ages 9 and older can purchase a trail ride option, and there are occasionally opportunities during choice activities to ride in the ring if they choose and weather permits.

We adhere to the YMCA standard which calls for 1 guard for every 25 swimmers.

No…While we will  honor each community member’s identity, the focus of our overall programming is being outside in nature, building community, and supporting each camper as they discover their sparks.

While honoring our history rooted in Christian principles, our longtime mission of “FOR ALL” encourages and welcomes all backgrounds to join us at camp. Our “Spirit, Mind, and Body Ceremony” introduces the 3 sides of the YMCA triangle and the concept of “letting your light shine.” Campers may attend with their cabin a values-based “chapel” time once or twice a week, and participate in cabin/unit devotions focusing on personal growth, friendship, and values. We celebrate Christmas in July during the session containing July 25 and often sing a simple “Grace” of thanks before each meal.

Health & Safety

Activities are designed with safety features. Staff are trained in risk management. We are accredited by the American Camp Association, the standard of the industry, for safety practices.

No. Each camper must provide a YMCA Camp Ernst Health Form including health history (which does NOT require a doctor’s signature.) A general health screening will be conducted during Sunday check-in.

Yes. There is a health care staff member on duty at all times. The nurse or health care assistant will handle all medications (prescription & non-prescription), minor illnesses and injuries. We do have OTC medications available. Parents will be notified at the discretion of the nurse: Basically, if there is a significant health problem, a continuing fever of 101+, or if camper needs treatment beyond our health center. In the event of an emergency, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Florence is only 10 minutes away.

All staff receive training on promoting positive cabin environments and following/enforcing privacy rules. Campers are supervised by their cabin counselors throughout the day. Campers and counselors are not permitted to share bunks and clothings are not changed in a public setting. Cabin expectations are set at the beginning of each week as a cabin group. Most cabins use shared bathhouses in their unit area. Expectations in all of these spaces are reviewed at the start of camp, and they are supervised by staff.

We have a great partnership with the team at Simplicety! They’ve worked hard to educate our camp staff and families about the truth vs fiction of head lice! The good news is that lice is not a health risk…but it certainly is a nuisance!

The best defense against spreading lice at camp is to check your camper’s head carefully prior to camp and advise them to limit head to head contact. Learn more here from the Simplicety team about preventing lice at camp!

The meals are planned and prepared by cooks. Food allergies and the likes and dislikes of campers are considered and we provide an alternative table with salads, vegetables & fruits.

Click here for the 2024 Menu.. We will accommodate most special food needs, although please note we can never guarantee a completely allergen-free environment.  Special diet forms should be submitted two weeks prior to the camp session.

Visitors are not allowed during summer camp. There are “No Trespassing” signs at each entrance of Camp Ernst. Our main gate is monitored by the office. In the rare case of unauthorized access, internal security is notified and if necessary, the police are called.

View the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati’s Safe Environment Code of Conduct. Learn more about how parents can help with our child abuse prevention efforts here.


We encourage both campers and parents to write. Mail is distributed after lunch or supper. Please remember to put the camper’s name, cabin number, and week number on letters and packages. Our address is: 7615 Camp Ernst Rd, Burlington, KY 41005

Campers do not have access to telephones. A staff member will initiate a call when appropriate. If a camper needs to be reached in an emergency, the camp office will make the necessary arrangements. Cell phones are not permitted.

Counselors are trained to watch for warning signs and to keep the camper engaged in the camp program and cabin group. Counselors will acknowledge that everyone gets a little homesick sometimes and remind the camper about their new friends and what activity they get to do next. They will also ask if there is something or someone keeping them from having a good time. In some cases, the parents will be notified and can assist in developing a strategy to help the camper.

No. Such items can be easily lost or damaged. Camp is a time to be unplugged and connect with each other face to face!

Yes, in some cases. The equipment will be stored in a safe location, can only be used during specified times, and only used under the supervision of a Camp Ernst staff member for the protection of all individuals.

If an item is lost, the camper should notify one of his or her counselors. We actively try to keep campers connected to their belongings. We have a lost & found fashion show on Saturday morning. Lost and Found items are kept in Welcome Center for two weeks and then donated to charity. Labeling clothes with a camper’s name is recommended. Please call the office or use our lost and found reporting form to report an item lost if you notice something your camper did not return home with after camp. Please note: our capacity to store and launder lost and found items is severely limited.

If your camper has a friend or group of campers he or she would like to bunk with, please make the request during registration or by giving us a call at the office. We can accommodate most cabinmate requests if the campers are within 18 months of age of each other. For any pair or group, please pick one camper’s name as “cabinmate” to use on all registrations (so even that camper will have his or her own name as “cabinmate.”). We can honor cabinmate requests for groups of up to 5 campers. Any requests for larger groups will be asked to be split into two or more groups. Cabin assignments are emailed out approximately one week prior to your camper’s stay. If there are any issues with assignments, give us a call so we can work with your request.

The Y is made up of people of all ages and from every walk of life working side by side to strengthen communities. Together, we work to ensure everyone -of all abilities, ages, cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, faiths, gender identities, ideologies, incomes, nationalities, origins, races, or sexual orientations-are treated equitably.

In order to provide a welcoming experience for all campers, DEI is infused in all facets of camp life. We work hard to ensure our spaces and activities are inclusive for all campers. We welcome the opportunity to adapt activities and experiences to create joyful and inclusive experiences! Feel free to connect with our staff if there is some way we can help your camper have a great week.

We recommend taking a moment with your camper to celebrate how great an opportunity this is to make a lasting friendship with someone that may be different than them.

If you or your camper have questions before the start of the session, please email or call our office (859-586-6181) at least two weeks prior to your arrival.

During camp, campers will have the direct support of their cabin counselors. Campers are constantly reminded, “If something or someone is keeping you from having a good time, what should you do? TELL YOUR COUNSELOR!”

Our staff receive training on how to have age-appropriate and positive conversations about youth development, relationships, diversity, goal setting, and belonging. Additionally, there is a unit specialist and leader who they will interact with daily. This leader will provide extra support and can help with additional quetsions or needs. The administrative team will be gbrought in by the unit team as needed or requested. If the need arises, we’ll reach out to the camper’s caregiver.

Deposits are fully-refundable until March 15. After March 15, deposits become non-refundable. Between March 15 and June 1, anything beyond the deposit amount can still be refunded. After June 1, all camp fees are non-refundable.

Cancellations must be made in writing. Please use this form.

Session switches can be made at any time, pending availability, through use of this form.

We are grateful for all of our camp families and their trust and loyalty over many years. If you have to cancel and request a refund due to your family’s special circumstances, please let us know. We understand and hope you will consider joining us again in the future!

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