Summer Camp: To Stay or Not to Stay?

Harper McCormack (center) and her cousins Chloe and Camryn, who were a part of her pod at Beachmont Christian Camp’s summer camp experience in 2020 | Photo provided by Megan McCormack

It felt like we were coming out of a fog when the email about summer camps opening came through. My mind immediately started racing. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to get her out of the house? She needs this ‘normalcy.’ Will it be safe? How much judgment will I receive for sending her to camp? If she gets sick, I’ll never forgive myself.”

Once I was able to quiet my mind, I started the research. What camps were taking extra measures to keep our little one safe? Ultimately, we chose a program that we were familiar with and knew that one of their core missions was to keep the kids outside as much as possible. They were maxing out each “pod” with 10 kids, not mixing pods, taking temperature checks, limiting any form of sharing and discouraging gathering in the locker rooms. Counselors were staying within their own pod. This approach was all good enough for us.

Our 7-year-old daughter attended Beachmont Christian Camp in Kingsville for a two-week session for the second year in a row. Last year, she went for multiple sessions. This year, we thought to ourselves, “Let us take it slow and see how it goes.” I cannot imagine it filling up like previous years. There could not be that many crazy parents like us.

Sharing the news that she would attend Beachmont was worth it. Her excitement was everything we remembered summer could be. It felt good to know she would get to enjoy all the joys of summer—the pool, lathering in sunscreen, enjoying snowballs and making friends.

I will admit the first drop-off was a little shocking. Kids were everywhere!

It took me a moment not to panic, but after looking closely enough, the kids were all roped into their pods—truly 10-by-10-foot rope squares everywhere—but at first glance, my heart dropped and I thought I might have made a terrible mistake. Oddly, at the same time, there was this feeling of excitement and joy for all of them.

I remember pausing in that moment and being thankful that Beachmont was able to safely execute this and how much it meant to so many of us. The sounds of summer were exploding from camp. I was happy for them. They had all gone through weeks of isolation and they needed this. As parents, we needed it more, but they too deserved it.

The first week went off without a hitch. My daughter’s excitement continued each day, and she was exhausted by pick-up time—exactly the ratio you want. We managed to lose only one water bottle that first week. Someone please tell me how water bottles, lunch boxes and towels continue to disappear at camp with zero memory of what could have happened to them.

And then … we got that email. The email we have now gotten used to, but during the summer, it was the first of its kind.

My heart finally sank and it didn’t come back up: COVID case, camp closed. Apparently, a lifeguard and a senior staff member tested positive. Week two was now canceled.

Knowing their procedures and that lifeguards have zero close contact with kids, I was less heartbroken by the fact there was a case but that I had to deliver the disappointment to my daughter.

Ultimately, I’m thrilled we sent her. She was able to live the summer dream even though it was shortened by the virus—how typical for 2020.

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