Summer camp a hard sell for some parents

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said summer camps will be reopening in the province by July. However, a lack of details and fears of COVID-19 infections have some parents feeling concerned about sending their kids to overnight camp.

Ottawa parents concerned about COVID-19 and unclear rules after premier's comment

A photo of children at Christie Lake Kids in a previous year. This year, the camp will offer a hybrid summer camp experience, both online and in-person. (Jean Vaillancourt)

Premier Doug Ford's unclear comment on summer camps, along with fears of COVID-19 infections, have shaken the confidence of some Ottawa parents. 

Ford said Sunday that summer camps would open July this year. However, it was not clear from his statement whether this would include both overnight and day camps.

"July 3 is usually the time they [summer camps] open. They're opening up this year," Ford said in a brief comment to reporters.

Tyler Johnson is happy his daughters, ten and six years old, will get the chance to go out but says he's not comfortable sending them to an overnight camp just yet.

"I do not believe sending my kids to an overnight camp would be a good idea. There are too many variables in sending them away that I cannot control. I would prefer to keep them closer to home," he said

Jonathan Morrison, father of an eight-year-old daughter, says this year is different.

"At an overnight camp, they're not going to be wearing masks the whole time. There's no way they're going to have 100 per cent 'maskability' at these camps."

Camp organizers are innovating

Camps, however, are trying to create a COVID-safe routine for the year. Last year, Christie Lake Kids decided to create a virtual experience called 'camp in the box.'

They sent boxes with camp materials to families and had the kids follow along virtually to activities. This year, Christie Lake Kids director of communications Natalie Benson says the camp is planning a hybrid model. 

"We're going to bring back 'camp in the box' while also doing some small in-person day camp experiences. Our plan was to run some small in-person overnight camps for ages 13 to 16. We are waiting on news from Ottawa Public Health, but are going to be running six-day canoe trips," Benson said. 

Camp organizers said the premier's statement was not much to go on.

"The information is a little bit vague. There are no details on what the summer camp experience is going to look like. It's actually a bit late. This is news we would have loved to hear about six to eight weeks ago," Benson said.

She added that the focus this year will be on outdoor activities, which is exactly what parents like Johnson are hoping for.

Johnson said he wouldn't send his daughters to overnight camp, but is looking forward to day camps.

"It would be a great thing for these kids to get out and socialize and be with other kids and interact with them. I think they're far too glued to the inside and to devices right now. They need some fresh air," he said.

Premier Doug Ford gave summer camps the green light to reopen this year, but camp coordinators say they are still waiting on more details from the government before they can officially go ahead with their plans. 8:12

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