Nfld. & Labrador

Pandemic won't stop the fun, say summer day camp organizers

Some summer day camps in N.L. are cancelled, but others are going ahead with smaller numbers, more sanitizing, and physical distancing.

Summer day camps in N.L. are planning ways to keep kids happy and healthy

The show must go on for two N.L. performing arts schools, Nomad Stages in Stephenville and Graham Academy in Corner Brook. But, due to COVID-19, summer day camps this year will be different from 2019 when these photos were taken. (Submitted by LouAnn Davis and Andrea Barrett)

Summer day camps are going to look different this year but, for some lucky children in Newfoundland and Labrador, at least they're going ahead.

While some camps have been cancelled, others are meticulously planning every detail to ensure children are kept healthy and happy over the summer months.

Meredith Loveys, chair of the board of directors of West Haven Camp in Pasadena, said it's important to offer a bit of normal life to children who've had limited contact with others since March.

"It could make a big difference to kids who have been home for three months now in isolation and children who are feeling really lonely and isolated and who really need a break, and need to get out and enjoy their summer," she said.

West Haven Camp in Pasadena usually offers an overnight camping experience. This summer, it will more likely be just a day camp but with all the same fun, outdoor activities. (Submitted by Meredith Loveys)

Making the best of it

West Haven usually offers an overnight camping experience, but it can't do that until at least Alert Level 2, and maybe not even then.

So Loveys said the camp decided it had to plan some sort of program, rather than just cancel entirely, even though she knows it will mean more work than usual in cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.

"We thought that we would just go ahead and start planning day camps, because a lot of parents are in need of child care and a lot of kids are in need of a break," she said.

It almost seemed like these kids were getting a head start on physical distancing during last year's day camp in Rocky Harbour and Norris Point. The camp is cancelled this year, and is being replaced with a Camp in a Box program. (Submitted by Trina Reid)

The Gander Boys and Girls Club also says its summer day camp is critical for the children and families it serves. It hopes to start camps by July 6, but with limited spaces and no field trips this summer.

Other camps, too, have realized that accepting fewer children is the only way for them to go ahead at all.

LouAnn Davis, owner and director of Nomad Stages in Stephenville, said her performing arts studio will be offering Star Wars and Lego camps in addition to musical theatre and dance.

"Our spaces will be kind of sectioned off, so that children know where their own space is. But we're hoping to keep the fun and those kinds of activities in there, so that it's still enjoyable while still being safe," said Davis.

Unlike in this photo from 2019, Nomad Stages summer day camps in Stephenville will have smaller groups and physical distancing this year due to COVID-19. (Submitted by LouAnn Davis)

Show must go on

COVID-19 restrictions are causing all camp organizers to rethink how they can still offer the same experience to children.

Ian Locke is faculty and production manager with Graham Academy, a performing arts school in Corner Brook that offers year-round programming including summer day camps in musical theatre and dance.

This year, they'll limit enrolment to 12 people per camp and, while movement on a stage often involves interaction between performers, Locke said that won't be happening this year.

"Everyone has their own bubble and does not leave that bubble," he said.

Graham Academy performing arts school in Corner Brook will be offering its summer day camp again this year, but with smaller groups, physical distancing, and no performances in front of a live audience, unlike here, in 2019. (Submitted by Andrea Barrett)

Locke said singing presents an even bigger challenge, as it's been identified as being a high-risk activity for spreading the virus. Singers have even been referred to as super-spreaders.

But, like any good performing troupe, Locke says Graham Academy will improvise to find a way for kids to still sing their hearts out.

"We're going to take it outside, facing different directions, and really do what we can to still sing together, but sing as safely and separately as we can outdoors," said Locke.

Instead of having a final performance in front of a live audience, Graham Academy day camps will present a virtual show streamed online for parents and members of the community to see.

Thinking inside the box

Not all camp organizers have made the decision to go ahead with in-person camps.

Grenfell Campus of Memorial University and the Town of Pasadena are among those who have cancelled camps entirely, due to pandemic restrictions and low numbers, respectively.

But at least one cancelled camp is still looking out for its clientele.

Trina Reid, co-ordinator of day camps in Rocky Harbour and Norris Point, said she still wanted to do something for kids and families, even though they can't be face to face.

Due to COVID-19, Rocky Harbour and Norris Point summer day camps have decided to offer Camp in a Box, a kit of fun activities and supplies for parents and caregivers to use with their children at home. (Submitted by Trina Reid)

Reid said they've created Camp in a Box, which is a kit of sports equipment, art supplies, and other items along with tips on how parents and other care providers can engage kids in meaningful and fun activities indoors and out.

"We felt that the children still needed something in the summertime, and we were trying to figure out a way to offer this. And this is what we came up with," said Reid.

"We are still trying to provide a camp experience at home."

Each week, Camp in a Box will be delivered to families who register, in communities from Trout River to Bellburns on the Northern Peninsula.

Reid said offering summer camp in this way enables them to reach children outside the usual catchment area of Rocky Harbour and Norris Point who, in summers past, have been too far away to participate.

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About the Author

Bernice Hillier is a host of CBC Newfoundland Morning, which airs weekday mornings across western and central Newfoundland, as well as southern Labrador.


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