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Coronavirus: London, Ont., summer camps take virtual route to maintain summer fun

The City of London has announced the cancellation of its Summer Day Camp programming, as well as all June leadership programming and June PA Day camps.
The City of London has announced the cancellation of its Summer Day Camp programming, as well as all June leadership programming and June PA Day camps. Greater Vernon Museum

The novel coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on in-person summer camps across the country, but a few local camps are keeping the spirit alive virtually to prevent kids from a gloomy summer.

Premier Doug Ford announced in mid-May that overnight summer camps are cancelled in response to the COVD-19 pandemic.

He said day camps in July and August may be allowed to open under “strict” health and safety measures as long as trends continue to improve during the pandemic.

READ MORE: No light at the end of the tunnel: What a summer camps shortage means for working moms

Certain camps in London are now switching to online learning, virtual bonding, as well as camp kits to keep campers busy and safe at home.

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Katie Urban with the Museum of Ontario Archeology told Mike Stubbs on 980 CFPL’s London Live Thursday the museum is keeping its tradition of maintaining interactive activities.

“(The kids) would usually be doing all sorts of games, and crafts and activities that related to archaeology but also to history, nature, and the London area around them,” said Urban.

READ MORE: London parent calls for refund after camp switches to online programming during COVID-19

But this summer, the campers will be learning through the museum’s camp kits.

“We’re offering our Summer Camp Kits, which is something we’ve come up with to bring the camp into the home, so kids will have some similar games, crafts and activities, (and) we’ll have some components that are online (such as) recorded instructions.”

Urban adds the camp also plans to do different live activities on a daily basis that kids will be able to participate in.

Coronavirus: Parents struggling to find summer childcare as many day camps plan to stay closed
Coronavirus: Parents struggling to find summer childcare as many day camps plan to stay closed

For Matt Story, the camp director at Easter Seals, which is a camp for children and youth with physical disabilities, cancelling in-person summer camp was a difficult but obvious decision due to COVID-19.

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Story told Jess Brady on 980 CFPL’s Afternoon Show Friday the camp has switched to a virtual camp this summer in hopes of ensuring campers have the opportunity to bond with others.

“We wanted to offer a platform that would allow our campers to still feel connected,” said Story, “and still be able to be social with each other (with) some fun camp activities.”

READ MORE: Meal program feeds and educates children at Toronto summer camps

Story said Camp Woodeden in London is set to provide a variety of activities including “arts and crafts, sports and games, outdoor adventure, life skills, music, and drama.”

“Every week, we’re going to be providing some different activities [that] campers can do at home with their family, and then they can go on to this platform, and share what they’ve done with their friends, so they’re still connected at camp, but just online.”

Cozy campfires are not getting booted out either. Story says the camp plans to have “… a few live campfires, (so) the campers can go (online) and sing the songs along with the (staff and volunteers).”

READ MORE: Live updates: Coronavirus in Canada

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Currently, the camp is holding a fundraiser called the 21 Times Challenge.

“You post a video of yourself doing something 21 times, and then donate $21, and that will go towards helping the virtual camp [and] equipment funding,” explained Story.

“The need for all this equipment is still there, but not being able to fundraise for it has had huge impacts on families.

Will parents be able to send their kids to summer camp this year?
Will parents be able to send their kids to summer camp this year?

Elsewhere in the city, Great Big Theatre Company is offering its Virtual Drama Program this summer.

Campers will be placed in a group video call, and collaborate and engage in drama games, improvisations, art projects, plays and scenes, along with music, movement activities and dance parties.

Brick Works Academy is also offering virtual camps involving Lego, Minecraft and mobile app development and design.

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READ MORE: Overnight summer camps cancelled in B.C. due to COVID-19 concerns

The City of London has announced the cancellation of its Summer Day Camp programming, as well as all June leadership programming and June PA Day camps.

The city says all registrants will automatically be refunded.

Other local camps that have cancelled their summer camps include:

-With files from 980 CFPL’s Jacquelyn Lebel

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