Running in-person camp during a pandemic
How we decided to run camp in 2020
People sometimes comment on how brave we were to run summer camp during a pandemic in 2020. We didn’t take the decision to open our camp lightly. But it was always clear to us, that if there would be any way to run an in-person camp, we would find a way to make it work. And we did! During the months leading up to opening the camp in mid-July 2020, we were overwhelmed with new and sometimes contradictory information. We sifted through all of it, talked to experts, Public Health, other camps and came up with a detailed plan that would allow us to operate camp safely even during a pandemic.
Maintaining the camp experience
While adhering to all Public Health’s COVID guidelines to run a safe camp, we also needed to look at our programming. We wanted to ensure that besides all the rules and restrictions, we would still be able to offer campers a valuable, enriching and fun experience! While we know that children are resilient and adaptable, we needed to ensure that this new reality would not take away too much from their regular summer camp experience. So, we asked ourselves: What makes summer camp so special and why is it so valuable, especially in our current environment?
The experience that we always want campers to have at our camp:
Try new things in an environment different from school
Enjoy the outdoors
Find new friends
Learn independence and teamwork
Feel accepted and valued for their individuality
So, the question was clear – would we be able to still deliver on all these points while adhering to the new guidelines? The answer was a heartfelt YES, ABSOLUTELY! Any other answer would not have been good enough. First and foremost, the camp is for the campers and we would never deliver a mediocre program to them.
Cohorts as bubbles
Most logistics had to be tweaked or re-invented completely. From the check-in process and cleaning to equipment and designated spaces. Cohorts were limited to 10 individuals, including staff. For us, that meant two counsellors with eight campers. While logistics changed part of the camp experience, once in their cohorts, we created an environment very close to what campers are used to. Even if it was smaller groups than usual. Our campers connected with their cohort and counsellors, had so much fun with our indoor activities and spent a lot of hours outside each day. And even if we couldn’t run our popular field trips, we made up for it by spending extra time outside exploring Toronto and fun activities led by our counsellors.
Kids will be kids...
We are so grateful to campers, parents and staff for coming together and creating an amazing camp experience. It supported our camp families and counsellors and provided the kids the chance to do what they’re best at – just being a kid! They just want to have fun, play with their friends and be happy! And we are here to create that environment for them!
Now, we can’t wait to do it all again in 2021. Maybe with fewer or different restrictions, but our values and goals never change as we just want the kids to have fun in a safe and engaging environment!