GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — This week, Michigan lifted restrictions that kept summer camps closed during the coronavirus pandemic. This comes as great news for many parents and children. However, they should be aware that summer camp will look a lot different this year.
"Many of the camps I have spoken to have cut their session sizes in half or drastically limited campers to accommodate social distancing. Temperatures are being taken, instructors are wearing masks — but I haven't heard of any requiring kids to — and sanitization methods are being employed," says Kelly Dentler, with Grand Rapids Kids.
GR Kids had to cancel its Summer Camp Fair at the Kroc Center during the onset of Michigan's pandemic response. Dentler says she is currently working hard to help guide parents now that camps are allowed to open.
"Our Summer Camp Guide has news of cancellations, changes to a virtual platform, and highlighting the camps that are still on," she says. "After the latest updates are made, we will be promoting this heavily on Facebook for the next few weeks to get the new info out there to everyone."
Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an order saying that camps can open, subject to guidance from The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Overnight camps and school-related sports activities were able to resume across Michigan as of Monday.
Even though they are able to open, some camps have decided to just cancel for the year. Other camps plan to go virtual and many are taking advantage of the chance to open with the new social distancing rules in place.
"Overall, we are seeing that many of the overnight camps shifted to day camps only, and many canceled camps are still offering a virtual platform or sending out packages of activities to complete at home," says Dentler.
In West Michigan, the YMCA, a popular go-to for summer camp, is doing a bit of a mix.
According to Bill Hinton, the executive director for YMCA's Camp Manitou-Lin, they have canceled overnight camp sessions for this summer, but will have other camp opportunities available beginning July 6th.
"We are still very excited to offer day camp sessions, Monday through Friday, starting July 6 until August 14," he says. "These day camps are for kids, age 4 through 8th grade. We've added a Horse Day Camp option and we are also excited to be able add at least 3 Family Camp options on weekends."
Hinton says they are following the State, CDC and American Camp Association guidelines to keep campers safe and will offer transportation options from Grand Rapids for day camps.
YMCA marketing director, Kim Ritz, says those not interested in YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin are welcome to participate in other camp opportunities.
"We are also offering summer day camp at our branch and school-based locations. That will begin soon," she says.
Another favorite for West Michigan families, The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, will not offer summer camp at all this year.
"The Kroc Center made the difficult decision to cancel all summer camps," says Jon Shaner, marketing director. "We still don't officially know when we will be allowed to reopen the building to the public in general. Even when that happens, we simply don't know what limitations we will have on capacity. We have, however, recently started rolling out some basic plans to members."
According to LARA some of the rules camps must follow include the following: daily deep cleaning of common areas, closely monitoring the health of campers and social distancing, which includes limiting the use of shared equipment. The state also encourages camps to spend as much time outdoors as possible.
The goal is to keep kids as safe as possible while allowing them to, finally, have some much needed fun.
"I've gotten word from many camps that they haven't had much sign-up activity yet. I think many assumed they would just all be canceled," says Dentler. "My advice to parents is to not assume your favorite places are closed. Call or check out the GR Kids Summer Camp Guide. So many camps are working hard to still provide a form of camp for your kids, so let's support them if you feel comfortable doing so."
Those interested in doing so can register here for day camp at YMCA Camp Mantiou-Lin as well as family camps or register by calling (269) 206-9008.
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