WOODSTOCK, Ga. – Camp Woodmont, an overnight summer camp, shut down in 2020 for the first time since it opened in 1981. Allison Gondet, the camp’s director, said her mom and dad built Camp Woodmont decades ago.
The Cloudland, Georgia, summer camp wasn’t alone last year. According to the American Camp Association, 40% of day camps and 80% of overnight camps were forced to close last summer.
Now, summer camps across the country are reopening after shutting down during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. While there may be some changes, the outdoor play and activities will be the same.
“COVID hit and we were all very devastated that we wouldn’t be able to have summer camp for the first time in 40 years,” Gondet said.
The camp usually has over 85 children a week and over 400 children during the summer. This summer they’re expecting hundreds of children to return to camp.
“We want to go full force into camp. … These kids have been dying to get away, to get away from the screens, to get outdoors, to be in nature, to just run around an socialize and we want to get back to just letting kids be kids again,” Gondet said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also released new guidelines for summer camps to follow to safely reopen.
The CDC says all day camps and overnight camps should separate campers into small groups and make sure they wear masks. Also, the agencey suggested summer camps should be outdoors as much as possible.
“We have some COVID precautions in place. We are asking parents to bring a negative COVID test upon arrival or have a vaccine,” Gondet said.
As summer camps reopening, the CDC is also pushing to make vaccines available for children between the ages of 12 and 15. The CDC expects the FDA to approve the Pfizer vaccine for that use before summer.
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Tom Rosenberg, the president of the American Camp Association, said kids need camp this summer more than ever before.
“This pandemic has really robbed all of us, but I would say our kids most of all. This summer virtually every state has already indicated that they will be allowing day and overnight camps to operate this summer,” Rosenberg said.
Fusion Stables, a horseback-riding summer camp in Woodstock, Georgia, will be filled with children learning how to ride horses this summer.
Tamie Acosta, the owner of Fusion Stables, said camp is starting to get back to normal.
“Everybody is starting to feel more comfortable with the vaccines, everybody is starting to learn how to handle what’s going on with COVID and they’re ready to just get out and start letting the kids be kids again,” Acosta said.
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Fusion Stables plans to host several camps this summer for children ages 5 and up.
“We teach them to ride, we work on balance and cognitive skills, whatever it takes to get them through the riding lesson,” Acosta said.
Fusion Stables camper Daliah Roberts is excited to be back at camp this summer.
“Riding the horse, you kind of forget about what’s going on – all the worries just go away,” Roberts said.
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Rosenberg said this summer children will regain the freedom that they lost.
“Kids are going to have the opportunity to try new things, practice making friends again, they’re going to get to practice communication skills, practice problem solving, and collaboration skills, and there going to get to be creative. Kids can have the summer that they need and kids really need summer this year,” Rosenberg said.