About Us

KidSpirit's Mission

KidSpirit strives to serve as a leader in providing young people with intentional, high quality, equitable learning experiences that promote positive interactions among adults and peers.

KidSpirit Philosophy

At KidSpirit, we believe that every moment holds the potential for learning and growth. We strive to provide a fun, open learning atmosphere where both participants and staff are encouraged to challenge themselves daily. KidSpirit instructors cater to the wide variety of learning styles by creating engaging and individualized lessons to ensure that every participant has the opportunity to increase their skills and confidence. 

The FISH Philosophy

KidSpirit programs combine a passion for learning with the FISH Philosophy. The FISH Philosophy is made up of four simple things: Be There, Play, Make Their Day, and Choose Your Attitude. Our staff embodies this philosophy through engaging in every moment, promoting fun in classes by choosing to play, going out of their way to make every participant’s day, and actively choosing their attitudes to be ready for a day at camp. KidSpirit employs staff who push themselves to consistently embody the FISH Philosophy in order to create an energetic and welcoming atmosphere.

Aims & Objectives

  • Enhance the mental, physical, and artistic development of the participants and staff
  • Promote and positively benefit society in human and community health through lessons and instruction
  • Create a functioning community network of mutual trust and social development
  • Provide age and skill appropriate activities with emphasis on discovery, individual improvement, and increased self confidence of participants and staff
  • Establish a safe and caring learning environment for all participants and staff 

The KidSpirit staff strive to provide a fun, educational, and caring atmosphere for children to achieve personal success while enhancing opportunities for social interaction in a supervised and positive environment.



KidSpirit: Then and Now!

Since 1961, the OSU Summer Sports Program has evolved by leaps and bounds. The program, now "KidSpirit" has sports, arts, science, and other activities not just in summer, but all year long. KidSpirit continues to expand to this day, constantly creating programs and activities to offer to the community.

KidSpirit is led by its director, Karen Swanger. Karen has an MS in Exercise Sport Science and a Minor in Conflict Resolution from Oregon State University. She has over 30 years’ experience in recruiting, training, evaluating, and managing large groups (200+) of staff and volunteers as the Membership Director for Maui Girl Scouts and the Director of Maui Special Olympics. Karen is assisted at KidSpirit by over 120 annual student workers, with positions including Camp Counselors, Head Instructors, Office Assistants, Marketing/Special Projects Staff, and Program Leadership Staff who take the lead to manage individual KidSpirit programs.

Summer Camp Expansion

In 1989, the boys and girls camps combined to become the Oregon State University Youth Summer Sports Program. The new program provided a six-week camp for youth aged 8-14. It offered more activities than before, including activities such as aerobic dance, soccer, and basketball for both girls and boys. In 1995 the camp began offering a full day option which consisted of four two-week sessions. Under the direction of current camp director, Karen Swanger, the camp burgeoned in 1999 to provide five two-week sessions. Enrollments grew to 400 campers per one-week session, increasing camp hours to provide care from 7:30 AM to 5:30 pm. The vast amount of growth also added an 11th week to camp.

Before "KidSpirit"

Oregon State University began its first summer sports program during the summer of 1961. The program was severely limited, offering only boys baseball. For 10 years the program remained relatively small in size.

In 1971 the program grew substantially when directors Don Martin and Dow Poling decided to offer more activities. In addition to baseball, they offered swimming and soccer. Continual requests from parents introduced the Girls Summer Youth Program. The new program offered gymnastics and swimming, activities provided at OSU since 1968 which had never existed at the summer program.