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Overnight camps cautiously planning for campfires and marshmallows in summer 2021

Overnight camps in Ontario were cancelled in the summer of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but some officials are cautiously planning for a return to cabin life and campfires in 2021.

Overnight camps were cancelled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic

Forming friendships is an important part of camp life. (Supplied by YMCA)

Overnight camps in Ontario were cancelled in the summer of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the YMCA is cautiously planning for a return to cabin life and campfires in 2021. 

"The value that camp provides to both kids and their families, it's incredible. Kids have an ability to try new things, to build new skills that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to build, which builds self-esteem and confidence," said Krista Gillespie, the vice-president of camping and youth engagement for YMCA of Southwestern Ontario. 

The Y runs two major overnight camps, Camp Queen Elizabeth in Georgian Bay Islands National Park and Camp Henry, at Point Pelee National Park. Both were cancelled as a result of COVID-19. 

"As we look back on 2020, there are a lot of people who feel screen fatigue and that's another really valuable thing that camp brings — the ability to unplug. I know kids have spent a tremendous amount of time on screens, some have had virtual school, so having the opportunity to get out in nature and unplug and just have some fun is so important."

The YMCA is hoping to run summer camps again in 2021 after being forced to cancel programs in 2020 because of the pandemic. (Supplied by YMCA)

Call it cautious optimism, but Gillespie said the Y will open camp registrations mid-January for those wanting to go to overnight camp this summer. Annually, about 1,000 kids participate in the two camps. 

Different look, same camp feel

"We are very excited, not only for our staff but also the families who we've been communicating with," Gillespie said. "At this point, we haven't been specifically given the green light for what summer camp will look like, but there's an incredible energy and excitement about the possibility of returning to camp." 

It might look different — fewer full-camp activities and more sticking with your own cabin, or more sanitizing of canoe paddles in between voyages, but it will still look and feel like summer camp, she said. 

"Obviously, we need to look at the logistics of what it will all look like, we're going to have to certainly modify of the things we do, increase our cleaning, but we can really modify what we're doing so campers can be independent as a group and still participate in all their activities." 

Day camps run by the YMCA are also in the planning stages, Gillespie said. 

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