Summer camp has been a part of Chloe Pekarsky’s life since she was 10.
The University of Calgary student says her time at Camp Chief Hector YMCA was always the highlight of the summer.
“It was my favourite place to go to. I would definitely say life-changing,” Chloe said.
“I was a pretty shy kid when I was little, so I think camp made me more of a confident person. It really allowed me to grow.”
Chloe became a camp counsellor at Camp Chief Hector for a year, but her plans to continue stopped in 2020 because of COVID-19.
“We always knew how important it was, but like most things, you don’t realize how important they are until they’re gone,” said Chloe’s dad Adam Pekarsky.
The overnight camps will be back at the YMCA camp in Kananaskis, but Camp Chief Hector is need of upgrades. The YMCA is now looking to the provincial government for $4 million as part of a $14.5-million fundraising campaign.
“Getting our kids back outside playing in nature and getting their noses out of their screens — I don’t think that’s an overly polarizing topic. I think from a political or government perspective, it would be a relatively easy one to get behind,” said Adam, who has been a board member of Camp Chief Hector for eight years and is also the chair of the current capital campaign.
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The vice-president of operations at YMCA Calgary said they normally open summer camp registration in November and it’s nearly filled by the end of December.
This year, registration opened at the start of February, and while spots for teens are nearly full, the younger kids’ spots, those ages seven to nine, are only half full, according to Tanya Connelly, VP operations at YMCA Calgary.
The executive director of the Alberta Camping Association said registration for summer camps has been strong this year, but there is still a hesitation among some families.
“I think people have become used to not going to camp. I think there will be that initial anxiety, but it will be good for the parents and the kids to go back to camp. I think there’s anxiety about what’s going to happen with COVID as well this summer,” said Jessica Miller Switzer, executive director of the Alberta Camping Association.
She said it will be up to each camp to determine what COVID-19 precautions they’ll take.
“We have been hearing both sides. We have heard from camps that are going to go to the vaccination route, and we also know camps that are not going to require vaccination. It’s a mixed bag of how they’re going to deal with it,” Miller Switzer said.
“It’s too early to say for sure, but the Alberta Camping Association will be engaging with camps and government stakeholders as we get closer to the summer, and we will give some guidelines and recommendations, but ultimately, it is up to each camp.”