New Jersey sleepaway camps begin planning for summer return amid pandemic
Gov. Phil Murphy announced earlier this week that sleepaway camps will be allowed to operate this summer. So the question remains – how are they adapting during the pandemic?
“As far as we know, there wasn’t a positive case at camp,” says Camp Ockanickon Director Matt Foran.
For the YMCA of the Pines in Medford, this was a big accomplishment in the middle of the pandemic last summer. The camp - which operates three programs, including two overnight camps – offered extended day camps last summer and reduced group sizes.
“Most campers actually ate outside. We would put campers around the dining hall. We also have pavilions and places like that,” Foran says. “Our activities, instead of some half being by choice, were campers would select which activities they wanted to do. They would select as a cabin or as a team or as a group and travel together with that group.”
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Guidelines for sleepaway camps have yet to be released, but the planning has already begun. YMCA of the Pines says that being outdoors is on their side.
“We have all of the traditional camp activities, swimming, boating, arts and crafts, and archery and ceramics and all of those traditional activities that take place outdoors,” Camp Matollionequay Director Charlotte Brown says.
While the structure of camp may have looked different last year and may still look a little different this year, the camps say that the most important thing was to give kids a sense of normalcy during the pandemic.
"Going virtual and having kids online and being school online, they were able to be here in person and socialize and so it was so important for them to be able to disconnect from technology and connect with their peers,” says Brown.
YMCA of the Pines says they're waiting on guidance from the state, the Camp Association and the CDC on what they will be able to offer this summer and any capacity limits.