McHENRY – It’s not often that the response to a shrinking customer base is to increase hours.
But in 2007, that’s what Kiddie Campus day care in McHenry did.
The child care center was depleted from parents losing their jobs and subsequently pulling their kids from day care.
But some of those parents were finding new jobs, often with late and unpredictable hours. Kiddie Campus added night care, going to a 5:30 a.m. to midnight schedule that over time has evened out the effects of the recession and brought in a customer base that stretches out all over the county.
“We spoke to a lot of parents and there was such a need for nontraditional day care, because they were taking whatever jobs they could,” said Owner Bonnie Bertagnoli.
First opened 45 years ago, Kiddie Campus today enrolls about 90 children from ages 6 weeks to 12 years. The center focuses more on educational activities during normal work hours.
“It’s more of a preschool setting during the day,” Bertagnoli said.
At night, the kids still draw and read, but things start to wind down around 8 p.m.
Since some kids are staying until midnight while others leave periodically throughout the night, it’s sometimes challenging for the staff to keep all the kids in line with their parents sleep preferences, Bertagnoli said. Some prefer their children get some rest, others want to pick up tired kids ready to collapse into bed.
“We put them on a cot, we read them stories, we put a movie on,” Bertagnoli said.
Jessica Sutherland, of McHenry, said she was unsure as to what child care services existed for someone like herself, who routinely works the night shift. She put her 5-year-old daughter, Kya, in Kiddie Campus about a year ago after searching around.
“Kiddie Campus was the only one that came up as an actual center that works with my work schedule,” she said.
Sutherland usually drops Kya off on her way to work at 4 p.m. and picks her up after 9 p.m.
“She loves it,” she said. “She’s hilarious. A few weeks ago, if I had a day off, she’d be like, ‘Mom, are we going to day care?’”
Sutherland said she trusts the teachers at Kiddie Campus, and it’s given her the peace of mind to continue bringing her daughter back.
“It makes it so much easier to know that she actually has fun and enjoys it,” she said. “And know that she’s not sitting in a corner, that she’s playing with friends. Just to be able to drop her off and go.”
Bertagnoli said the staff tries to keep things fun by mixing up activities and themes on a week-to-week basis.
“They have a lot of great ideas as far as activities for the children to do,” she said. “At nighttime we always have projects. We have projects, especially in the winter when they can’t go outside. ... Basically just changing it up to make sure they aren’t doing the same routine all the time.”