Summer camps going virtual: ‘An opportunity for kids to still connect’


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A summer tradition for many kids is going to camp. With the pandemic, some camps won’t be able to open in the traditional sense.

Staff at Camp Stomping Ground had to get creative this year, after deciding not to open up for in-person camp this summer. They’re trading in traditional activities for virtual arts and crafts, baking, and home science experiments.

Ray Mahar is the community engagement director at Camp Stomping Ground. Virtual camp started back in March and it’s now in its second season.

“We never planned on running virtual camp and the fact that it came together in three days is really wild to what it is now. We weren’t sure then what our plans were going to be for the summer,” Mahar said.

Each season of ‘Hometown Stomping Ground’ runs for eight hours a day, but kids can choose which activities to participate in. 105 kids log on each week, with 10 to 12 kids per session. There’s three different age groups: ages five and under, ages 6-14, and ages 14-17. Kids from all over the world log on.

“We have been very successful at figuring out how to make this feel meaningful and make this connection actually something that is positive and productive and not just making it a distraction.”

While Mahar would’ve loved to run traditional camp this year, he said this is the best thing to do right now.

“Now what we’re seeing is real opportunity for kids to connect.”

They plan to run a third season in mid-July, with official dates to come. The program’s cost is on a sliding scale, you can pay $50 or $100 or attend for free if you’re struggling financially. Mahar said they’ve never turned anyone away for financial reasons.

A spokesperson for the YMCA said this about its summer camp programs:

In recent weeks, the YMCA of Greater Rochester has seen an increase in demand for school-age services and we anticipate those needs growing. If the demand increases, we can and will increase our capacity to serve the youth of our community through our newly created School-Age Enrichment program and other summer programming, like Day Camp, as approved by state and local governing officials. 

Registration for summer camp remains open. The Y looks forward to being able to provide a camp experience for kids this summer. We are making plans and adjustments daily based on direction from national, state and local leaders as to what the experience will look like. The Y continues to work in a leadership role alongside subject matter experts, to ensure camp is the safest environment possible. 

We understand we are in a very fluid situation, and we don’t want that to stand in the way of registering for a summer experience. That’s why we have amended our cancellation policy. If someone chooses to cancel they can do so 14 days prior to the beginning of camp, and participants will receive a full refund, including their deposit. If for any reason the YMCA of Greater Rochester must cancel camp, participants will be refunded.

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