COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Summer camps are a beloved tradition, but last year COVID-19 kept a lot of kids from experiencing the joys of camp.
“It was really surreal, especially with the masks. You know, everyone is wearing masks,” recalls Audrey Beam, the Columbus Metro Parks’ Camps and Special Events Coordinator.
Feeling an obligation to their mission, Columbus Metro Parks were one of the only camp programs to go forward with a modified camp schedule in 2020.
“It was, you know, the unpopular choice at first,” admits Beam. “It really worked out; we didn’t have a single positive case all summer long.”
However, this year many summer camps programs will be back for parents and their children across Central Ohio. Meaning many of the same safety measures will return when they welcome campers back.
“We had parents line up in their cars with their campers, our counselors went from car-to-car, checking temperatures, asking about symptoms, exposure to COVID, all of that,” Beam describes.
Camp leaders say most traditional activities — like archery, fishing, and kayaking– will still take place this year, but there will be some changes.
“Those big field games that you think of, when you think of classic summer camp, just because the amount of contact those games require, we won’t have those,” says Beam.
For Ohio’s 4-H programs this summer, their organizers say that campers will be separated into pods of between eight and ten kids.
“I know that we’re going to have modifications and things, but I think it will be totally worth it because we’re able to offer these experiences,” says Dr. Hannah Epley, an Ohio 4-H Camping Specialist.
Even traditional sports like basketball and soccer have had to be re-imagined to meet recommended health orders.
“We just had to recreate all of our games and finding fun ways to switch the games up,” says Rebecca Wade-Mdivanian, a Franklin County 4-H educator.
This year organizers say they’re shouldering the responsibility of not just camper’s physical health, but their social health as well following months of separation during the pandemic.
“They have someone they can look up to, they’re accepted by others, they’ve made a new friend,” describes Dr. Epley, who says the summertime staple isn’t just fun and games, but lifelong lessons.
“They’re getting all kinds of skills that will help them now, but later in life too. It helps them kind of be on their own, if you will.”
Another precaution many programs will be taking this year will be eliminating overnight camps.
Camp leaders know things can change with health orders at any moment and they say if they’ve learned anything in the last year it’s flexibility and adaptability.
Many programs will begin accepting registration later this month and early May, with camps beginning for most programs in early June.