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Central Ohio YMCA Determined To Keep Summer Camps Alive During Pandemic

YMCA's Camp Willson has been canceled for four weeks for the first time.
YMCA Of Central Ohio
YMCA's Camp Willson has been canceled for four weeks for the first time.

Ohio day camps can resume operations this week, as part of the state’s gradual reopening during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, the YMCA of Central Ohio will wait until June 15.

“We want to make sure we ensure the safety of our participants, our team members, our families, so we’re taking extra steps to make sure our facilities, our training, all of our programming is ready,” says Tony Collins, president and CEO of the YMCA of Central Ohio.

Collins says those extra steps include making sure that there is enough space for various children’s activities.

“Where we may have had a camp program prior, for example at a branch with other things going on in the branch, whether it be swimming lessons or wellness programming, we may not be able to do that now,” Collins says.

Collins says staff members will wear face masks, but campers will not be required to wear them.

“Our staff will take temperature checks when they come in,” Collins says. “We have five questions that we’ll ask parents as they bring their kids to camp every day. We’ll make sure that we’re following all of the recommended protocols from Franklin County, Columbus Public Health as well as our other partners.”

Collins says finances are tight for the organization since its facilities had to close in mid-March.

“We should be able to cover our costs, but it definitely will be a little bit more challenging,” he says. “We’ve been thankful for our partners and donors who have helped support, so we’ll be able to make sure that no kid is turned away.”

Collins says for the first time, Camp Willson, which offers overnight camping, has been canceled for four weeks because of state restrictions.

He says the organization hopes to resume that program later in the summer, after the state health department enacts new guidelines for overnight camps.

“If they’re permitted to reopen resident summer camp programs, then we will look at the potential of hosting a two- or- four-week summer camp experience for kids,” says Collins. “Much smaller groups, with separated spaces. Definitely a different experience.”

Pickaway County YMCA day camps will open June 8.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.