Families across Northeast Ohio, with the help of summer camps, are taking a step toward normalcy after a year of lockdown. Many summer camps are opening up this year and some parents say their children are absolutely thrilled.
“My kids said they don’t care if they have to wear a mask 24/7 and take a shot every day. They want to go to camp,” Laura Loebl of Pepper Pike says. “It’s been quite a year. Thank God we have all been safe this year and we have been able to be there for each other. It’s been a lot of time together as a family and we all could use a break. They are 15 and I am sure they are ready to be away from their dad and me. They need exercise and movement. They need to be outside in their happy place with their friends.”
Parents like Laura and her husband have already enrolled their kids in summer camp, taking advantage of the fact that many camps across Northeast Ohio are planning for a more normal summer.
Sharon Jenkins, Chief of Marketing Services at Lake MetroParks, said last year that they offered only about a third of their camps to a very limited number of children; but this summer, they plan to return to pre-Covid levels.
While parents are expressing concerns about Covid protocol, they also have other questions.
“Last year, people were scared and wanted to know what precautions we are taking. This year, the tone is more [about] how much back to normal will you be,” says Cara Robson, Assistant Childcare Director at Green Family YMCA, a branch of the Akron Area YMCA.
Jessica Hornyak of Barberton plans to send her 7-year-old to the Green Family YMCA. She confirms that her biggest concern is, “Will the children have an opportunity to do more this year?”
“Pre-pandemic, they were going on field trips, but they were not allowed last year,” she says. “Before Covid, the kids would go to the movies, bowling and other field trips. They did the best they could last year, but I am hoping to hear they will do more. I am just hoping that the kids will have a more normal summer. I just feel so bad for them and hope that their summer is less restrictive this year.”
Robson said that the Green Family YMCA is planning for field trips this year, although it’s focusing mostly on outdoor activities. The campers will visit waterparks, zoos, playgrounds and parks. As for the preschoolers who do not participate in field trips, they will once again welcome presenters from places like the Akron Zoo. They will also take walks to a nearby ice cream shop a few times during their camp experience.
Overnight camps are also moving forward. Camp Wise, the overnight camp of the Mandel Jewish Community Center of Cleveland, is ready to offer its campers a summer filled with excitement.
Camp Wise Director Rachel Felber says they have a plan in place to offer camp as well as move toward this summer in a very safe, fun and welcoming environment.
“We have been very proactive in holding forums on what to expect when camp reopens,” she says. “Some have asked about mask-wearing policies; but how campers will deal and interact with each other tends to be the most common question.”
Camp Wise and other camps across the region plan to follow safety protocols as outlined by the state and local governments in order to keep all attendees safe.
Nicci Chojnavki of Green is very excited for the summer of 2021. She is raising a 5- and 7-year-old. After some deliberation, she believes that she and her husband made the right choice regarding their kids’ planned summer activities.
“We both work at home so we can’t entertain the kids through the day,” she says. “They get outside a little bit. Now that the camps are moving toward more normalcy, we are looking forward to the summer program. I am excited about our oldest getting to swim several times a week and my youngest playing with bubbles and chalk outdoors. I think it’s great that my husband and I made the decision to send them back to camp.”