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It's time for parents to start thinking about summer camps

It seems far away right now as the snow falls in Northeast Ohio, but experts say this will be the summer of camp for kids as the pandemic wanes.

MOUNT GILEAD, Ohio — Parents, now is the time to think about summer camp. Demand for day-camp and residential programs is soaring as the pandemic wanes.

Many camps were dark in 2020. For those that operated in 2021, most had limited capacity due to social distancing and staffing constraints. But this summer, the American Camp Association says its 15,000-some member camps nationwide are preparing to host as many kids as they can.

“We’ve all been impacted by the pandemic and our kids especially so,” said ACA President and CEO Tom Rosenburg. “They need educational and developmental experiences like camp to help them catch up on who they are, who they aspire to be, what they want to learn and really help them prepare for a successful school year.”

Hopefully one to come without disruptions. Shaker Heights eighth grader Jacquelin Anzo is counting down the days until she returns to camp. “Fishing, the archery, the arts and crafts,” she said. “It’s just the small things that make it feel like a home away from home.”

Like other kids with serious illnesses, she found that home at Flying Horse Farms in Mount Gilead, a camp designed to provide transformative experiences for kids who need medical support.

“They're with each other and they have that special circumstance that no one else has been able to connect with,” said her mom, Tina Anzo. “[Jacquelin]wants to be the first to arrive and the last to be picked up.”

For the last two years, the pandemic made summers quiet for Flying Horse Farms. “Many children with serious illnesses experience isolation, pandemic or not,” said Chief Mission Officer Dani Wilkinson. “We have always focused on creating connections, that sense of belonging and creating opportunities for children and families to make friends.”

Instead of in person camp, Flying Horse Farms used virtual activities and “Camp in a Box” drop offs to stay in touch with its families. Now with a vaccine requirement and expanded safety protocols in place, it’s gearing up for summer residential programs. 

There are still spots available before the end of the month deadline. Click here for more information.

“We’re here, our gates are open and we’re ready to serve families when they are ready to embrace camp again,” said Wilkinson.

Camps are experiencing a surge of registrations for day and overnight programs as parents feel safer to engage their kids with meaningful connections and socialization opportunities. With multilayered mitigation strategies and covid cases on a steep decline now, they hope it will look more like the summer of 2019.

They're hoping camp experiences can be the antidote to the losses virtual learning and isolation have brought kids.

“What kids need now more than ever is to be in person, in an immersive learning experiences that are both educationally and developmentally valuable. And also outside, moving their bodies. Getting back in shape. And working their minds, learning how to communicate and relate with each other,” said Rosenburg. “That's what this summer is about.”

With inflation on food and a shortage of seasonal labor, costs are certainly up to run summer camps. But ACA President Tom Rosenburg told 3News, 93 percent of its member camps offer financial aid. He says parents should not hesitate to ask for help in getting kids to camp this summer.

ACA also has a tool to help you find the best camp option for your family’s perimeters by clicking here.

Flying Horse Farms operates free of charge for its campers. You can find more information on applications here. Jacquelin says she’s looking forward to all of it. “I would say just being able to experience the fun and the joy of being able to go to camp,” she said.

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