Nfld. & Labrador

'It's going to be really tough': Easter Seals cancels summer camps due to pandemic

CEO Mark Bradbury said the camps are some of the most anticipated events on the Easter Seals calendar.

Organization moving toward virtual connections amid pandemic

Mark Bradbury is the CEO of Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador. File photo. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, summer camps at Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador have been cancelled for the first time in 20 years.

"We didn't have much of a choice," Easter Seals NL CEO Mark Bradbury told CBC Newfoundland Morning.

"Easter Seals summer camps are for persons with disabilities, so we are certainly considered in the vulnerable sector of the population. It was a really tough decision, but it had to be made in order to protect our staff, families and most importantly all of our campers."

It's the second straight year camps will be unable to be held at the Easter Seals House in St. John's, after a flood at their Mount Scio Road building brought all operations to a halt last July.

Bradbury said many in the Easter Seals community see them as more than just summer camps, and the three-to-seven-day camps are some of the most anticipated events on the calendar.

"They'll get to get in a canoe, sit around the campfire, have plays and all the summer activities that would happen at any camp," Bradbury said.

"To now go a span of two years in between, it's going to be really tough for them."

Easter Seals house serves as a second home for many in the Easter Seals community, and houses programs like sports, music and summer camps.

Bradbury said all Easter Seals programs outside of career services have been cancelled due to the pandemic, and people not being able to access these programs affects them as they face challenges in times of physical distancing and isolation.

"Easter Seals is their social, physical and mental outlet," Bradbury said. "I can't imagine how hard this must be for our participants at home, in wheelchairs and so on."

He said the organization is trying to do more things virtually to help the Easter Seals community stay connected during the pandemic. The group is also working with Easter Seals Ontario, which is bringing its summer camp online and has extended an invitation to Newfoundland and Labrador campers.

Easter Seals is also continuing some fundraising efforts during the pandemic, including their upcoming cabin lottery.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from CBC Newfoundland Morning