Summer camp adapts to give families change of pace while working and learning from home

Posted at 5:23 PM, Oct 01, 2020

The first day of October might seem like an odd time to talk about summer camp, but one business has found a way to keep its operation running overtime during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Camp Sea Gull is located on a remote part of the North Carolina shore. Typically, it accommodates thousands of campers a year. But once COVID-19 hit, that changed and put the camp in a precarious position along with so many other businesses.

“It was really difficult,” said camp director Allison Simmons.

Simmons said the camp was able to open this summer but only with a fraction of its normal participants. So, to try to attract more people, she had the idea of opening the bunks to families who wanted a change of scenery as they work or learn from home.

“To me, this is giving a lot of our parents and students some hope in breaking up the monotony of whenever their school started,” said Simmons.

The reservations allow families to stay at Camp Sea Gull for up to seven days, and Simmons, along with other administrators, came up with five different activity programs for families.

The camp installed high-speed WiFi throughout its buildings so parents and their kids could access it during working hours, while it worked to offer activities afterward.

A normal day might include opportunities to fish, sail, canoe, and play games from 3 p.m. to sundown.

“[Before coming to camp] my kids were all sitting in their rooms by themselves for 6 or 8 hours a day in front of a screen, and that’s just not normal for kids,” said Stan Coerr.

Coerr says he has been coming to Camp Sea Gull for 40 years--first as a camper, then as a counselor, and now as a dad who wants to plan a getaway with his three sons ages 20, 16, and 14.

“I told my boys [the pandemic] won’t be the worst thing you go through but it will probably be the weirdest,” said Coerr. “And as much as I can get them out and doing things as a family, which is kind of rare these days, I will definitely take that opportunity.”

Coerr says the four of them stay in the same bunk and have each claimed a portion of it for their work. Since being at camp for a few days now he says he has noticed his sons are more attentive to their schoolwork and bicker less.

It has also allowed Simmons’ business to flourish. She says camp can now stay open past August, when it would end during a normal season.

She says 75 percent of the people who have signed up are new clients as well.