In a time where not much feels “normal,” the opportunity to attend a summer camp, whether in person or virtually, will provide metro children and families a much-needed connection to the learning, fellowship and fun of pre-pandemic days. Nostalgia for summer camp experiences has never been stronger!
Many metro organizations are taking extra precautions or providing virtual summer camp options to ensure they can continue to serve families and children in our community. Four metro families share how summer camps meet the essential needs for new experiences and deep relationships for their children — and why these developmental necessities are more important this year than ever. Read on to learn how these families are approaching camps this summer.
Jenna & Sean Vasquez
In the past, the Vasquez family has enjoyed all kinds of day camps, from sports camps like swimming and golf to church camps and Vacation Bible School. In 2020, Noah was looking forward to his first sleep-away church camp experience, only to have those plans canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jenna has been happy with the mask requirements and safety protocols their church has put into place and will consider sending Noah to camp this summer if those protocols remain.
“I looked forward to camp every year as a kid!” recalled Jenna. “New people, experiences completely out of my comfort zone and new opportunities were really important, more so now as I look back.”
Jenna also remembers enjoying receiving letters from home and growing closer to her mom as they wrote back and forth to each other.
“I want all those same opportunities and experiences for my son,” said Jenna.
Christie & Tim Mannin
Emily, 18; Carys, 14; Addi, 11; Greyson, 7
The Mannin family is all hands on deck each summer! Christie and Tim are pastors of OKC Community Church near downtown. The church hosts Vacation Bible School during the summer months and also offers Student Life Camp for middle and high school students.
Though 2020 presented unique challenges with the pandemic, the Mannins decided to host their Student Life Camp.
“It was a hard decision, but at the end of the day, we saw the needed time with friends [and] one-on-one encouragement,” said Christie. “Our camp is much, much smaller than normal and we felt safe hosting it. By the end of the week-long camp, we were so confident it was the right thing; the kids were reenergized and filled up.”
The church also provided take-home kits to ensure each family was able to make the decision that felt right for them.
Like they typically do each summer, this year the Mannins will also seek ways to enjoy time together as a family.
“With our summer free time, we try to focus on keeping our family close,” said Christie. “Enjoying the outdoors, swimming and fun family getaways are things we do every year.”
Yvonne & Stephen Bowman
Jordan, 22; Lexi, 21; James, 8
With kids spanning many ages, the Bowmans have long participated in some kind of summer camp or activity. Jordan recently worked as an overnight summer camp counselor, and James has always enjoyed seeing new and old friends during summer day camps.
The family is uncertain how they will proceed this summer as the pandemic continues to drag on.
“If we were to catch the virus, our jobs, school attendance and visits with family would be negatively affected,” said Yvonne. “My husband is an essential worker and is also at high risk due to a recent heart attack. My parents are in their 70s and we still want to be able to visit them safely. If we were able to be vaccinated, that would change my view on James going to camp this year.”
Yvonne regrets that COVID-19 has eclipsed their plans.
“The worst thing is that summer camp at James’ age is the most fun,” said Yvonne. “Getting worn out with activity, meeting new friends that could last a lifetime … I still have friends from summer camp when I was in 4th grade, and I want that for James, too!”
Jennifer & Tim Mullins
The Mullins welcomed Allen into their family a few years ago through adoption. They continue to learn and grow together as a family, and having opportunities for activities like summer camp for Allen has been an important part of that process.
The family hopes to find a few day camps for their son that enforce mask-wearing and other safety protocols.
“Allen is very good about wearing his mask,” said Jennifer.
In the past, Allen has thrived in camps that keep him active and busy. He has ADHD, and, due to prior traumatic experiences, is still learning what good and healthy relationships look like.
“Camps are so important to us because they help us give Allen examples of what friendship and positive role models can be,” said Jennifer. “I want him to see diversity and be exposed to what the world looks like and not be afraid of those who are different from him. He is so smart and creative. To see people nurturing those gifts and celebrating them rather than only seeing his learning difficulties or where he came from would be the greatest gift.”
Check out the searchable guide online for the latest on camp availability and COVID protocols at metrofamilymagazine.com/