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Organizers of Baltimore County area summer camps expecting more children enrolled this year

The pandemic that shut down much of the nation throughout the summer of 2020 impacted Americans in many ways. Last summer, though, children were affected as many camps either did not operate or went with smaller capacities.

This summer should see an improvement in that area as camps are now even more well-versed in measures to keep the children safe, some restrictions have been relaxed, and this should let them enjoy the outdoors. For example, The Y in Central Maryland, the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team and CCBC Catonsville are planning to serve children in daily and/or weekly camps.

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Lana Smith, executive director, youth development for the Y, said her group’s camps operated at about 45 percent capacity last year. Still, approximately 1,000 children signed up. This summer, Smith said they will have 15 locations and 16 camps throughout Baltimore City and its five surrounding counties. The Y is going to operate camps in Catonsville and Towson (Orokawa), and a day and overnight camp called Puh’Tok in the Pines in Monkton.

Smith added that there is going to be a large increase in the number of kids in attendance this summer with camps for 5 to 15 year olds.

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“We were hoping for around 75 percent, and we are already almost exceeding that,” Smith said. “Our challenge this year is to meet the challenge of as many kids as we can.”

Last summer proved to be a challenge also due to all of the changes they were forced to make. The Y added hand-washing stations, tents and table space at their camps to increase physical distance among campers. The camps followed mask protocols according to state guidelines.

“It was certainly a very new environment,” Smith said. “There were many moving parts.”

This is what camps needed to do last summer, and apparently it worked well. The American Camp Association (ACA) released a statement in March which said just 30 campers experienced COVID-19 cases in 2020 following a study of 486 camps and 90,000 campers.

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The ACA said the study showed that coming up with strong safety standards quickly proved beneficial to the children last year.

“The science demonstrates that camps that have implemented strict, layered mitigation strategies — including masking, cohorting, physical distancing, cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, proper hand-washing and respiratory etiquette — have been able to safely operate in person,” said Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the ACA in that statement.

The Community College of Baltimore County will be running a six-week session at the school’s Catonsville’s campus named Camp Heritage. This camp, according to a school spokesman, is going to be operating at 40 percent capacity. That means the limit should be 88 children.

Just like other camps in the area, many details will be subject to change as they are trying to work out all the kinks. The camp is for children who finished kindergarten through fifth grade by this June. Kids who completed sixth and seventh grade can be picked to take part in a counselor-in-training program.

This summer, the camp is going to be a six-week session from Tuesday, July 6, through Friday, Aug. 13. Children are going to be put in pods of 11 campers according to the grade they finish this June. The camp also will require that campers and staff wear masks except when doing sports, outdoor water activities, anything they deem “strenuous” as well as eating lunch.

There are planned daily COVID-19 screenings for staff, campers, plus parents and guests who come to the camp. Also, the staff is going to work within the guidelines of daily COVID-19 policies.

The Baltimore Blast soccer team ran its camps last summer, adhering strictly to the policies for dealing with COVID-19. These camps are one week long and spread throughout the metro area. Last summer, there were approximately 600 children who came out to learn soccer.

Meanwhile, Blast team officials needed to scramble to make sure everything was safe for everyone.

“It was difficult,” David Bascome, the Blast coach and director of camp operations, said. “We were following all the guidelines last year. Change is very difficult sometimes. Once we got past the first three or four camps, it got easier after that because we were so really, really concerned. We spent a lot of time with hand sanitizers [and taking] temperatures. Whatever we had to follow, we were going to be following.”

This year, the camps also will be available for 4 and 5 year olds, and parents can take part. Bascome said this is something good as it allows them to learn the game while their child does. For the older kids, all of the coaches and directors are going to be taught what the Blast wants — especially attention to detail. Bascome said that each director is going to be a Blast player or coach, something that often makes an impression on a child trying to learn the game.

Children who participate in these one-week camps often take part in one in June and then come back for more in August. Bascome said the Blast already has 300 signed up and expects to pick up a lot of kids late just like last year. He also wants everything to be in order.

“I want to make sure ... everything has to fall in line,” Bascome said. “We want to make sure that we’re delivering. The camp has to be an area where young people can socialize and be a safe one.”

The Y in Central Maryland's Adventurer Camp campers participate in a Cardboard Boat Regatta at Camp Whippoorwill in Pasadena in this 2018 file photo.
The Y in Central Maryland's Adventurer Camp campers participate in a Cardboard Boat Regatta at Camp Whippoorwill in Pasadena in this 2018 file photo. (Jen Rynda / Capital Gazette)
Children from the Y Camp Whippowill try new foods at the Live! Casino & Hotel “Around the World on a Plate” culinary adventure in this file photo.
Children from the Y Camp Whippowill try new foods at the Live! Casino & Hotel “Around the World on a Plate” culinary adventure in this file photo. (Joshua McKerrow / Capital Gazette)
In this file photo, summer campers play soccer at the Y of Central Maryland's Ellicott City branch.
In this file photo, summer campers play soccer at the Y of Central Maryland's Ellicott City branch. (Gabriella Demczuk / Baltimore Su / Baltimore Sun)

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