By NICOLE PELLETIERE, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on summer camps.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty and camps that have lasted for generations are now asking for help as parents.
“Camp is a really special tradition in our country,” said Tom Rosenberg, CEO and president of the American Camp Association (ACA). “Kids have been going to camp for over 150 years with some of the earliest camp directors actually being teachers.”
Camps today serve 26 million children, according to Rosenberg, and there are 15,000 camps across the United States.
Last summer, the pandemic closed 82% of overnight camps and 40% of day camps. Many were also left in financial ruin, according to the ACA.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 12, 2021
For example, the YMCA of Greater New York had to put its property, home to three summer camps, up for sale.
Now, supporters of YMCA camps are trying to find a buyer to pay $5 million to keep the camps operating.
Monica Bermiss, a former camper, counselor and director, said that camp is more than just a summer experience.
Every kid has a story, have your kid start theirs at YMCA Summer Day Camp. Friends, experiences, and memories to last a lifetime! There is an energy and magic to summer camp that cannot be replicated! Sign up today! https://t.co/6s9yzh8V3p pic.twitter.com/ZNeCd4xvna
— YMCA of Greater New York (@ymcanyc) March 12, 2021
“We ensure that campers of all socioeconomic statuses have an opportunity to come together at this camp,” Bermiss told GMA. “Eighty percent of the children that attend to camp receive some sort of scholarship.”
The YMCA camps have been providing scholarships to kids who come from lower income households.
Former camper and counselor Juan Escobar said he wouldn’t be where he is today without camp.
“Where I was living in in the Bronx, my environment was full of violence,” Escobar told GMA.
Dear Y family and friends… please see our update on sleepaway camp. pic.twitter.com/Vdx5vMVwV6
— YMCA of Greater New York (@ymcanyc) March 9, 2021
Camper Emma Forr, 12, said her family has been going to camp for generations.
“I was hoping to continue my life at camp so when I heard it was shutting down, it was very upsetting,” Emma said.
GMA reached out to the YMCA about the sale of the camps. It said “the decision was not made lightly.”
“We have had strong interest in and multiple offers for the camp property since we placed it on the market,” a spokesperson for the YMCA said. “As a result we are extending the deadline to receive offers for the camp property until Friday, March 19.”
Bermiss said the No. 1 goal is to find donors who can invest in the future of camps.
Emma said the pandemic doesn’t have to last forever, but she hopes that camp does.
In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published suggestions for youth and summer camps including its CDC’s Youth Programs and Camps Readiness and Planning Tool to protect campers, staff and communities.
Among the preparations, the CDC suggested camps appropriately train staffers and teach the importance of social distancing.
If you’re thinking about sending your kids to camp, be sure to research camp safety protocols and the CDC guidelines, which include hand washing, mask wearing and proper social distancing.
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