For some, the camp will go on
YMCA, Riverside Outfitters proceeding with plans amid pandemic; Richmond, others still deciding
Summer in Virginia usually means summer camp for kids.
But with the coronavirus still a threat, some businesses still closed and restrictions on social gatherings changing, this year looks like it’s shaping up to be a summer like no other.
Ashley Gray had been planning to send her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte, to Camp Friendship, a sleepover camp in Fluvanna for the first time. But once Richmond schools shut down in March, she knew that summer camp was probably canceled, too.
“I was planning to cancel, but the camp canceled all their summer sessions before I got around to it,” Gray said. “Charlotte is very disappointed camp is canceled ... [but] she saw it coming and wasn’t shocked.”
Now, the questions for parents and summer camps are many: Will summer camps be able to open? What will they look like? And if they do, will parents feel safe sending their kids?
A spokeswoman for Gov. Ralph Northam, Alena Yarmosky, said guidance specific to summer camps is forthcoming, although it’s unclear exactly when.
Without specific guidelines for summer camp in place, many have been trying to come up with their own safety protocols, postponing plans until that guidance is received or deciding to cancel their camps for the summer.
The city of Richmond’s Parks and Recreation won’t be deciding until mid-June whether to host its popular summer camp this year. Last year, the program served over 1,000 kids in the city’s 10-plus community centers.
Chesterfield County Parks and Recreation also says it won’t decide until sometime this month. Henrico County Recreation and Parks has canceled all programs through June 12 and is waiting for guidance as to when — or if — it can return to normal operations.
Other summer day camps from the YMCA, like the popular outdoor Camp Thunderbird, will be held this summer, as well as outdoor camps at Riverside Outfitters.
“We are planning to open nine camps by June 15,” said Jason Ching, camp operations director for the YMCA. “We found a lot of success with Camp Hope, our child care for essential workers [which served 412 children]. We’re planning to follow some of those extra health precautions like taking temperatures for the children and staff every day, having the children wash their hands before joining their group and keeping children in the same group during the
On May 28, Ana Leahy (left), Atarah-Sheba Young and Jason Ching, camp operations director for the YMCA, prepared for Camp Thunderbird by marking off areas to permit social distancing. day.”
Camp Hanover, a Christian day and overnight camp in Hanover, announced in mid-May its decision to suspend all camps.
“Under the current conditions, we believe having camp would be irresponsible. It would be a violation of the trust you place in us,” the camp posted to its website.
The Richmond SPCA has canceled its indoor Critter Camp; Sabot at Stony Point has canceled all summer camps; Hanover County camps have been postponed indefinitely; and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond has canceled all on-site ArtVenture classes due to COVID-19.
The YMCA is moving full steam ahead with its nine summer camps. Under
Phase Two guidelines, the YMCA said it is able to operate its day camps as child care for families.
It has partnered with the American Camping Association to come up with standard procedures and guidelines, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for the day camps.
In addition to the already mentioned precautions, here are a few examples of what those extra safety precautions will look like:
Campers will be required to wear a mask on the bus to camp.
Only one child per seat; siblings can sit together.
Children will be in the same group during the day. The ratio of staff to campers will be 1 to 9, keeping each group at 10 or under.
Large group gatherings will be avoided.
Games with physical contact will not be played.
Equipment and touch points will be wiped down on a regular basis throughout the day.
“We’re trying to offer as many programs and activities as we can within the guidelines to create a fun and engaging experience,” Ching said. “Camp is a social atmosphere. We want to make sure they’re having the best time possible being outdoors and in nature while taking extra health precautions.”
The pools at YMCA camps will not open for the immediate future, but the zipline and Alpine Tower at Camp Thunderbird will be open. Other activities like archery, hiking, and arts and crafts will be offered. Groups will be limited to 10 or fewer, and campers will stay in their groups.
Campers over age 10 will be required to wear masks while inside the YMCA. Staff will be required to wear masks while on the bus, speaking with parents and inside the YMCA.
“I’m excited for the campers to be outside and in nature,” Ching said. “Our goal
After sending the Facebook post, they knelt for a prayer and then dialed in to a Zoom call with a family. A similar scene is playing out worldwide as reassigned missionaries navigate new realities.
In Orlando, Fla., Bella McCain and Madison King hold a WhatsApp video call with a family they have been teaching church doctrine. They invite the family to take the sacrament for the first time and follow up on an earlier proposal: forgo coffee, a key part of the faith’s health code, which also bans alcohol and tobacco.
The husband and wife had different outcomes: She says she found it difficult but would like to work on it. He says he’d given it up.
On Facebook, McCain and King craft a message in Portuguese, the language they learned for their original assignments in Brazil. They also text people asking to set up a call to talk about the church.
It’s a far cry from just months ago. In Brazil, McCain largely spoke to people face to face.
“Sometimes we feel like pioneers,” said McCain, a 19-year-old from Texas. “We’re not used to using social media in this way and, like, I never made videos and posted them online before . ... We’re all learning, and it’s really interesting and really fun.”
The church began incorporating online faith outreach when it gave some missionaries tablets six years ago. It’s since made technology more prevalent, giving most missionaries smartphones even before the pandemic, Nielson said.
A more online-based approach would be a major shift and could diminish the appeal for some young church members who crave an enriching cultural experience, said
Ryan Cragun, a sociology professor at the University of Tampa who specializes in religion and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. The time in the community also breaks up the drudgery, said Cragun, a former church member who served a mission in Costa Rica.
“There’s this quasi-tourist experience of going to these cool places, but there is also the connection you get to the people,” Cragun said. “That’s probably one of the more meaningful things that happens.”
The virus forced church officials to scramble for flights to get missionaries home from far-flung countries like Ethiopia, Australia and Vietnam. But Nielson said the church never wavered in keeping the program going.
It shows the importance the church places on sharing its gospel.
About 5,000 missionaries who were brought home have been sent out again in the United States.
Thousands more are heading out soon. The church gave them the option to wait a year, but the large majority chose to start again now, Nielson said.
Missions, which last two years for men and 18 months for women, are as much about locking in young church members for life as converting others, Cragun said. The average number of people converted per missionary has risen slightly in the past three years, to 3.7, but is still less than the average of five in the previous decade, church figures show.
Nielson said the pandemic has made people hungry for the missionaries’ message of hope.
“There’s never been a time when more people have wanted to know about religion than there is now,” Nielson said. “People searching for peace. People searching for answers. People searching for someone to talk to. It’s been an incredible thing.”
Matt Perry, co-owner and president of Riverside Outfitters, which was closed during part of the pandemic, sanitized an oar on May 28 in preparation for reopening the next day.