Summer camps reopen to excited parents and kids amid COVID

A brand new dropoff routine greets kids and parents at Camp Sam in Sewell. After months of waiting, camp is open for the summer — and it’s hard to tell who is more excited.

“We’re ecstatic. We’re glad that kids finally have something to do,” said parent Chris Clements.

Owner Tara Carr has been running the camp for 13 years. Carr says this year by far was the most challenging summer to stay open, but they’re doing so safely while trying to maintain camp traditions.

“Typically there are 20 kids in the group. This year there will be about 12 kids in the group and that’s just to make it easier to maintain safety and clean appropriately. Typically in the past if a counselor is on vacation for a week, or sick for a day, we have fill-ins but we can’t do that anymore because those two counselors are the only counselors that can be with that group. We’re not making money this summer, we’re making memories. We want to be here for our families. I feel like all of our camp staff are essential workers; they’re providing a service for our community and families so parents can go back to work,” Carr said.

Parent Lisa Silva is a nurse who desperately needed a summer camp to take care of her daughter Danica while she battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Being outside and being with other kids and being tired when they get home and having a great day and seeing your kids happy is such a relief,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to just being social and just hanging out because we’ve been stuck at home, obviously,” said daughter Danica Silva.

“There were a couple of meetings before hand going over how we sanitize the stations and social distance better than other places. Definitely it’s a lot, it’s a little bit more nerve wracking than normal,” said Dakota Silva, a counselor at Camp Sam.

“All of our counselors have hand sanitizer throughout the day. They are required to wash their hands after every station. Every single camper has their own caddy, they’re right there in the window, and they all have their own name on them with scissors, markers, crayons, everything that they would need. There is a pool ambassador this summer who makes sure that they are spreading out at the pool. The younger kids stay in the shallow end. The older kids, if they pass the swimming test, they can stay in the deep end. We have people that were hired strictly to clean during the day and make sure that everybody is staying far apart from one another,” said Gianna Maglio, the camp’s medical director.

In addition to temperature checks and hand washing, the camp also has a quarantine isolation room in the event of a suspected case of COVID.

“Here is our completely air conditioned isolation room. We are fully stocked. We have face shields that go over our head, we have a bed for them to lay on, everything you would possibly need for COVID isolation,” Maglio said.

“I think a lot of parents are looking to us as the dry run for schools. If we can kick this off and keep kids safe parents will feel more confident sending their kids to school,” Carr said.