2020: The Summer of No Camps

Alex Camerino |
Summer Camp Fire
A group of campers enjoying an evening around a campfire. Photo: Unsplash

Sleepaway summer camps are unique to the United States, but this summer most have closed their doors. This year over 15,000 camps have chosen not to open due to the risks of COVID-19. With over 20 million children in the US attending summer camps annually what will those kids be doing if camp is not an option?

Kids at Home

Summer camps are an integral part of a child’s education; they are a place where kids learn new skills, become more independent, and have a chance to unplug from technology. Children need a chance to grow without their parents hovering over them every step of the way. With COVID-19 stay at home orders, children and parents have been stuck inside for months with no way to escape each other. In short, everyone needs summer camps more than ever right now.

While some camps are experimenting with virtual programs to keep children engaged, online camp is not the same experience. Most kids attending camp live in an urban area which makes it even harder to recreate outdoors close to home. If you are a parent that would normally send your child to camp, unfortunately, your summer job is now harder than ever. Make sure your kids are still getting plenty of outdoor playtime and, if possible, try and keep them connected to their close camp friends over the summer.

Summer Camp Activities
Two counselors getting ready to hype kids up for “color wars”, a tradition many camps have. Photo: WLC

A Loss for Camps

The closure of so many camps for the 2020 season is heartbreaking for the camp community. According to the American Camp Association (ACA), camps are estimated to lose over $16 billion in revenue and have a collective job loss of 900,000. While most camps will be able to weather a year of closure some will not.

Many camps in the US were started in the late 1800s or early 1900s. William Lawrence Camp, in Center Tuftonboro, New Hampshire opened its doors in 1913. The camp managed to stay open through the Spanish Flu in 1918 as well as World War II, however, COVID-19 has proved too arduous to provide a safe and fun environment for campers. William Lawrence started to make contingency plans for opening in mid-March, but as the pandemic roared on it was clear there was no safe or monetarily viable way to open its doors for their 108th season.

Rolling the Dice

Some camps have decided to take the chance and open this summer. Camp Winnebago, in Fayette, Maine has decided that despite all the regulations and guidelines they will remain open. Some of the measures they are taking include testing every camper five days before they arrive and five days after they have arrived. Additional hand sanitizer stations have been installed and face masks are required in large groups.

These extra measures are costly and not feasible for every camp. While some states like New Hampshire have said overnight summer camps can open many states like New York, New Jersey, and Oregon have banned camps from opening this summer. Hopefully, camps that open make it through the summer with no outbreaks and for those that do not open campers and parents hope to be back for camp in 2021.

Summer Camp View
Campers get to see stunning sunsets from the Knoll at William Lawrence Camp. Photo: WLC

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