OAKLAND -- Wouldn't it be great to attend a marketplace of summer camp programs? One where camp representatives would be on hand to give an overview of the program and answer questions? A place where parents and children could find just the right fit for enjoyment and enrichment?

Thanks to the Oakland-Piedmont American Association of University Women (AAUW) that marketplace will take place March 9 at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland when representatives from more than 80 affordable local programs will gather.

Whether you're a first-time parent or one looking for something new; whether your children are in preschool through high school or have special needs, there will be something to fit every interest, every need.

This will be the 32nd year of the Annual Summer Camps and Programs Fair, one put on by the AAUW as a community service for the children and parents of the greater Oakland area and the logic behind the event hasn't changed much since its origin.

"Our AAUW group was a lot of young mothers 32 years ago and all were looking frantically for summer activities for their children so they decided to invite a lot of camps to the Scottish Rite Center," said Judy McCord, Oakland-Piedmont AAUW President. "That way personnel from the camps and parents could actually meet and see how comfortable we would be in having our children entrusted to their care."

The fair is a great way to determine if a camp is a good fit for the child, if the child is the appropriate age and if the child will benefit from the program. Many of the camps will be doing demonstrations, slideshows or have something to catch people's attention.

While 32 years ago, most traditional day camps met in parks, today the choices run the gamut from music to drama, technology to tutoring, robotics to water-ski camps, and more. Along with long-established programs such as Fairyland, Camp Cazadero and Cal Shakes, others are newer to the field.

Vision Tech offers programs in game design, robotics engineering and minecraft mining; Tree Frog Treks focuses on local flora and fauna with Animal Ambassadors; Cooking Around the World combines cooking skills with language, games, folk tales and outings; and Winnarainbow, founded by Wavy Gravy, runs the gamut from skills for stilts, trapeze and juggling to drama, martial arts, singing and dancing.

The fair is the main fundraising source for the AAUW. The event is free but funds are raised through the fees charged to program exhibitors. The proceeds from the fair go toward a wide range of programs that fulfill the AAUW mission of education and equity for women.

Of top importance are scholarships offered to middle-school girls to attend the Tech Trek STEM summer camp program, a weeklong camp held at a college campus where students participate in science and math activities.

Funds are also used to sponsor local women and girls at other educational opportunities.

"A part of equity for women and girls is understanding economics and personal economics, so we send 10 girls to the YMCA's Young Women and Money Conference held in downtown Oakland," McCord said. "We also use proceeds for our legal advocacy fund to sponsor cases such as women getting tenure at the college level and women suing Walmart for pay equity and opportunities for advancement."

Attending the Annual Summer Camps and Programs Fair is a win-win activity for the entire family, a chance to reach an agreement between parent and child and cross the summer camp item off the to-do list; pick up prizes, souvenirs or food items from camp representatives; cross the street for some playtime at Lake Merritt; and support AAUW programs that ensure that future generations of women will continue to narrow the gender equity gap.

fyi
AAUW Annual Summer Camps and Programs Fair: 1 to 4:30 p.m., March 9, Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Free admission. Free parking in the parking lot behind the center (enter via Madison Avenue). For more information, go to: http://oaklandpiedmont-ca.aauw.net/campfair.