When it comes to a kid-run business, the lemonade stand and neighborhood car wash markets are covered. However, when brothers Ryan and Blake Lieberman concocted the business venture of a sports summer camp as a junior and sophomore, respectively, at Greenhill, they decided to push the status quo.
Now in its fifth year of operation, Camp SPARK was born from the Liebermans’ idea of a sports camp “for kids, by kids.” Now, both honors business students at the University of Texas at Austin, they have passed the torch to a younger generation to keep the camp’s motto alive.
Campers have already begun signing up for the week of June 6 for the sports day-camp. Each day, boys and girls will meet separately to participate in skills training and sports competition with their counselors.
Camp SPARK includes a variety of sports for kids to participate in, from basketball to swimming to wiffleball to cheerleading. Around 14 high school counselors, called city partners, will lead approximately 60 campers in exercises at Episcopal School of Dallas this year. In the past, the camp has been held in the Liebermans’ back yard and at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.
“Parents can sign their kids up now, all the way up to the day of the specific camp day they want to attend,” Blake said. “We found it best to set it up that way. Some kids only come for one day, and some kids only sign up for one day to begin with and end up signing up for the rest of the week, too.”
For the entire week, Camp SPARK costs $225, and a single day costs $50.
“We really wanted to reinforce our motto by seeking out and promoting kids younger than us to have control of the camp,” Ryan said. “That’s why we’ve reached out to city partners. They’re younger, they’re still in high school, and they maintain that dynamic.”
Virginia Tiernan, a junior at ESD, is one of those city partners. A family friend of the Liebermans, Tiernan said she wanted more than the typical high school summer job.
“I called the Liebermans last year and asked if I could help run it,” Tiernan said. “I’m responsible, as of last year, to run the camp.” She and fellow ESD junior Natalie Groves help set up the week-long camp by finding counselors with athletic experience, securing facilities to use, and overseeing each day at the camp from start to finish.
“We have some adults there for legal reasons,” Tiernan said. “They supervise things, but mostly it’s us and the counselors running the whole thing.”
Tiernan said trying to figure out how to keep a balance between hiring friends and being their boss was one of the more difficult lessons to learn, she said. “This year, we’ve had to really sit down and come in thinking, ‘We need to choose people based on character,’” Tiernan said. “So we met last week and tested each counselor who applied. It’s different this year.”
While neither the Liebermans nor Tiernan see themselves operating the camp after their college careers, they said the business and leadership skills they’ve learned from running Camp SPARK have been more than they could have ever imagined.
Ryan and Blake return each summer to help keep things running smoothly, they said. However, they’re slowly becoming more hands-off, stepping in only when they need to guide the new generation.
“This whole thing has been a really rewarding experience,” Blake said.