Written by Olivia Heenan and originally published in the Royal Register (Bishop Reding High School publication) in March of 2021

More than ever, youth need camp. “As a seasonal industry hit hard by COVID-19, more than one thousand camps (in Canada) are at risk of permanently closing their doors” says the Canadian Camp Association. Camp provides youth the opportunity to learn new skills, make lifelong friends, gain newfound confidence and most of all, the freedom to be their true, authentic self. Camp is a two billion dollar industry employing more than 70,000 people across the country and positively impacting the economy. One camper even told us that they are afraid for the future of Ontario camps, as her parents make a living directing summer camp. Without camp this summer, the family will have no source of income.

The Ontario Camps Association (OCA) remains unsure about the upcoming 2021 camp season. Camps across the province are counting down the days, weeks and even months for it to be deemed safe to re-open camp facilities. There is still hope for this season however with the global pandemic continuing much longer than anyone anticipated and the impact more significant, there is still hesitance among campers, parents, staff, and government officials.

Camp will definitely look and feel different in 2021. Many regular camp activities will most likely not be possible. If overnight camps are approved to be open this summer, countless safety measures will be in place, adding to the over 600 health and safety standards that were in place before the pandemic. New measures would most likely include daily health screenings, cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas, and the use of personal protection equipment.  It may also involve the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test before arriving at camp.

Camp is not just a resort for kids. It is a community of like-minded people. It is a place to learn new skills, develop new friendships, and make memories to last a lifetime. Mia, a camper at Centauri Summer Arts Camp tells us that one of her favourite parts of camp is seeing the final performance pieces at the end of the season. Centauri, like many other camps, is a specialized camp offering training in different art programs which include acting, film production and performance, fine art, dance, stage combat while at the same time delivering a traditional summer camp experience. 

Campers use words like sad, devastated, and disappointed to describe how they will feel if summer camps are cancelled once again this year.  Sarah, 16 explains “the hardest part is not being able to come full circle on the growth I have had at camp since I was 10, and on the friendships I have made”.  A great many more campers agree with her and it worries them that younger campers won’t be able to experience camp the way they did. One told us “I think it (camp) saved a part of me”. 

What is next? How can we ensure that youth across Ontario get the summer they deserve? For the time being, it is essential to stop the spread of the virus. Please continue to wash your hands often, social distance, stay at home in your bubble, wear your mask covering your mouth and nose, don’t leave the house if you feel unwell, and get vaccinated when the opportunity becomes available. The camp industry needs your support. You can write a letter of support to your Member of Parliament at both the provincial and federal levels. You can support the camp industry on social media and use the hashtag #Thankstocamp. 

Thanks to camp, youth of Ontario like me are stronger for the future. Let’s all do our part to ensure that camps and Ontario can go back to business.

Link to original publication:  https://issuu.com/nada_elhossiny/docs/combinepdf__3_/72