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Demand high as summer camps hold opening week in London, Ont.

Camp staff get ready for the day outside of Carling Recreation Centre, one of several locations offering summer day camp from the City of London. Andrew Graham / Global News

A number of families in London, Ont., are breathing a sigh of relief as the city begins welcoming little ones to its summer day camps.

For the rest of the season, London will be offering day camps for children aged four to 12 at 10 sites throughout the city.

One of those sites is the Carling Recreation Centre on Grosvenor Street, where Lishan Mareane dropped off his six-year-old daughter on Tuesday morning.

Read more: In-person services return at most London, Ont., public libraries

The local father says he’s happy his daughter will be able to receive some human interaction with new people following a year of school that was spent mostly online.

“That’s kind of exciting, I think, not only for her, but everyone,” Mareane said.

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“I’ve enrolled my daughter for a week, at least for now, because the spots were filling…. I feel like I’m lucky to find a spot for her.”

Shelly Wilson also considered herself lucky to find a spot for her four-year-old child’s first time at camp.

“We were sitting on the computer waiting to go. They’re booked for three weeks so it’s nice, it’ll be a good summer for them,” said Wilson.

Read more: Overnight summer camps opening up in Alberta after year-long COVID-19 hiatus

The mother added that day camp also provides relief for parents and guardians after they were forced to accommodate everything that comes with remote learning throughout the school year.

One day into day camp, Wilson says her child is loving it, a sentiment that was echoed by Anthony Agueci’s son, who’s also making his first venture into day camp.

“They came back exhausted yesterday, so that’s exactly what should happen,” Agueci said.

“I was a camp kid. I’m excited that he can go back and participate.”

Click to play video: '1st day of CampTO doubles registration over last year'
1st day of CampTO doubles registration over last year

With London and Middlesex County still in Step 2 of Ontario’s reopening plan, there are a number of protocols in place for day campers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This includes placing campers in cohorts, mandatory masking indoors, encouraging campers and staff to get vaccinated, and restricting sports and recreational fitness activities to outdoors only.

Masks are not required outdoors, so long as at least two metres of physical distancing can be maintained, according to an open letter from the Middlesex-London Health Unit to camp operators in the region.

“Campers are going to be screened for symptoms upon arrival. In addition, families will be assigned a specific drop-off and pickup time,” London Mayor Ed Holder said during a media briefing on Monday.

“Staff are going to be required to complete a daily health screening and will be wearing personal protective equipment.”

Read more: Doug Ford says next steps in Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening plan to be announced within 3 weeks

Joannah Campbell, a supervisor of recreation services who oversees the city’s camps in east London, says staff “do have the benefit of having run last year, so we had a lot of takeaways from that.”

“We’re really lucky this year, the day camp guidelines allow for use of spray pads and play structures, which weren’t allowed last year.”

If all goes well, the region is set to move into Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan before the end of July, but Campbell says she’s not getting caught up on what’s over the horizon.

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“For now, we’re just planning based on our current protocols and we feel really confident in what we’ve developed. If we are able to open up and offer more, then great, but if we need to keep going the way we have, we’re ready for that,” Campbell added.

Read more: What you can do and when under Ontario’s new 3-phase COVID-19 reopening plan

Anyone looking to register for a city camp will have to join a wait-list, but Campbell says there’s been movement on the wait-lists, so there’s still a chance of catching a spot.

Elsewhere, London’s neighbourhood playground program is back to celebrate its 100th year in service.

The half-day programs are offered free of charge at more than a dozen parks across the city, so long as the weather is clear.

“We sadly weren’t allowed to run it last year and we’re really excited to have it back this year,” Campbell said.

“We do still have spaces available in the playground program and registration for that opens weekly, every Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.”

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