A summer without summer camps? Annual tradition for many up in the air amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 5:35 PM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-08 17:35:48-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Summer camp is an annual tradition and is a chance to explore, make new friends and have fun. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, summer camps are up in the air and it's a difficult reality.

"You've got a group of kids that have had their lives turned upside down," Nick Bond, District Vice President of YMCA Buffalo Niagara said. "They don't necessarily understand what's going on."

Bond is a former camper himself and knows how big of an impact summer camps can make.

"I'm hopeful that we're able to provide summer camps that look similar to what we've done in the past," he said. "But at the same time, provide a safe environment for our families and our kids."

It's why the Y has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Camping Association to form guidelines. Should camps be a go, they'll implement things like small group sizes and minimal interaction between campers and counselors.

"We're gonna work with our staff and make sure that they're properly trained to be able to offer the safest program possible," he said. "That's in addition to providing a service for parents back at work and also a fun experience."

The Girl Scouts of Western New York are in the same boat. With an average of 2,000 summer campers, it's hard to focus on the unknown.

"It's a really tough decision," CEO Alison Wilcox said. "There's a lot of emotion around it. We definitely have to go back to the facts and look at safety concerns and make our decision based on what's gonna be the right thing to do."

That summer camp decision will come early next week. But even if camps are a no-go, the lessons won't stop as troop members continue to step up in big ways.

"They started sewing masks, they started donating cookies to first responders, and just spreading cheer," Wilcox said. "Girl Scouts always look for ways to do the right thing and make the world a better place."

It's all we can do during these uncertain times and while organizations can't guarantee summer camps will happen, they can guarantee this:

"There's bright days ahead," Bond said. "We're gonna be here to help serve our communities and keep the spirits up and stay active."