NORTH YORK, ONTARIO, CANADA - DAY CAMP
What changes did you make to operate either to your program or camper capacity?
During a usual summer, we will see about 1000 campers throughout the summer, each camper will be placed in a cabin group of 15 and have 2 or 3 counsellors depending on the age. For summer 2020 we saw about a third of the campers and grouped them into cohorts of 10, 8 campers and 2 counsellors. Typically, we run an 8 week program, but due to the day camp guidance only coming out in June, we needed more time to prepare and so we ran a 7 week program instead.
Our operations were reimagined from top to bottom. For example, screening procedures and temperature checks were introduced for campers and staff. We pivoted from being a camp that usually bussed 99% of our campers to a full drop off and pick up program. When serving our snacks and lunches, we made sure everything was individually packaged to minimize exposure and handling. We also hired cleaning staff who traveled around each day constantly cleaning high touch surfaces such as door handles and bathrooms. Staff members ensured frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing, especially after using the washroom, before and after each activity, and before and after meal/snack times.
We hired a public health consultant who was able to assist us in everything from staff training, to our health centre and even visited throughout the summer as a pair of “fresh eyes”. We also understood one of the big hurdles of running camp during summer 2020 was going to be the mental health aspect. We knew our campers and staff were going to be under our care after pretty much being locked in their houses for the previous four months. We understood the mental, social and physical implications were going to be something we had never seen or really had to deal with previously- at least not on this scale.
To help us with this transition we hired a registered social worker. She was able to speak to our head staff, regular staff and even parents before camp began. She was able to give staff and parents tools to ease the transition of re-entering the world, managing anxieties, as well as their own personal emotions and feelings.
All of our camp activities took place outdoors to lower the risk of transmission, and if there was inclement weather, each cohort had a safe designated room to carry out fun activities in. Our activity specialists, lifeguards and swim instructors remained physically distant from each cohort, while still managing to lead the cohort through the activity in a fun and safe way. Other than those adjustments, we successfully adapted all programs to a COVID-19 safe model.
How did you deal with COVID-19 exposures?
We are delighted to say that we had zero positive COVID-19 cases this past summer! We had protocols in place with clear instructions on what parents and staff needed to do if a camper or staff member was showing signs or symptoms of the virus. Our health centre was run by a nurse who worked during the SARS and H1N1 pandemics. We also hired two nursing students to work alongside her. We tried to limit the number of campers and staff visiting the health centre by having our Health Centre team constantly roaming the property to assist anyone who needed it. If anyone did exhibit any signs or symptoms they were brought to our isolation room and their parents were contacted to come pick
them up from camp immediately.
If a camper or staff member was displaying signs of COVID-19, or reported they will not be attending camp that day due to symptoms, we advised them to contact a healthcare professional who would provide them with the next steps. This usually resulted in being tested for the virus, and the individual was only allowed to return to camp once a negative test result was shown.
How well did it work?
Our parents and staff responded extremely well to our new protocols, procedures and practices. Parents ensured their child was not sent to camp with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, and if their child did require testing, they maintained open communication and frequent updates with the office staff. Our staff knew that whatever they chose to do during evenings and weekends had an impact on everyone’s safety at camp. We are very grateful for our staff’s understanding of the severity of COVID-19 and how our collective goal of providing an amazing camp experience to our campers allowed us to thrive. A major component to our success was the cooperation, hard work and love all of our amazing staff put forward.
Overall, parents were a lot more understanding this past summer. Through constant and open communications with our families, we gained their trust. Parents were so happy to restore some sense of normalcy and routine back into their child’s life. We were inundated with positive feedback and letters of thanks from many families.
What was the impact on campers?
After our campers spent months in isolation, with minimal socialization among peers, being able to attend summer camp was so great for them. Children spending their summer outside, swimming, playing with friends and participating in a wide range of fun activities daily, was needed this year more than ever.
We had many parents commenting on how their child had really blossomed and grown over the summer, and how it’s the first time in a long time they have seen their child so genuinely happy and excited. The mental health impacts of the campers being at camp was completely unparalleled. The campers who attended the first day of camp anxious and scared, quickly began leaping out of the car in the mornings so eager to have another amazing day at camp. Camp is a great way for so many campers to make new friends, this is a really important social skill to have, especially after months of isolation. With our slight changes to programming, we were able to give each child a “normal” summer experience.
Hear From Parents
It’s hard to believe that summer 2020 is almost behind us and once again, we are writing to you to thank you for another INCREDIBLE camp season. In a normal year, we would be grateful for the amazing environment you create at Crestwood — the kindness, excitement, enthusiasm, creativity, care and sensitivity that the entire staff demonstrates towards the campers is unparalleled. But this year, in a year that our kids truly needed camp more than ever before, you rose to the occasion, making Crestwood not only a fun and wonderful place but also a safe one. From the first day, it was clear that so much thought and attention had gone into planning for this unique summer; all aspects were considered and the execution was perfect. From the branded face masks, the new transportation routine and, most importantly, the gentle way that you handled the campers’ emotional reintegration to routine, you did not miss a beat!
We are so grateful for the way you have all embraced Jagger and encouraged him to be creative, independent and to try new things. We were astonished by the variety of activities he happily participated in — golf, batting cages, basketball, etc. — in addition to his old favourites — crafts, bounce party, swim. Every day, he would light up, describing his day as “really, really, really great!” What more could we ask for? As parents, it is amazing to see your kid so happy. And when there were bumps in the road, which there inevitably are, your team handled it so well and the communication was excellent. He misses camp already and insisted on bringing both his Crestwood shirt and cabin picture with us to Quebec!
Thank you, thank you — from your biggest fans! We’ll see you in 2021!
Hello Team 2020!
Feel free to quote any part of, or all of what I state below!!!
We, AS PARENTS, being 100% confident in your camp, staff, safety recognition and history SHOULD AND MUST be thanking your entire extended team for providing us PARENTS with the confidence and determination we’ve needed in order to allow this year to come to fruition.
Speaking on behalf of my direct and indirect extended family, we will ALWAYS be there by your side whether it be for a needed counsellor or member!!!
The most expressive Kudos goes to each and every one of you!
With the most heartfelt regards
I just wanted to send a note regarding how amazing your summer camp for the 2020 season was. We were beyond impressed with your processes, your safety protocol, the counsellors, the drop off/pick up, the “pod” strategy, the sharing of the educational material in advance, etc – everything was seamless and perfect. I was actually talking with another mom and we were saying we think you should consult the TDSB on how to run a really good “school” during Covid because you really had thought of everything and we felt so safe sending our kids to you each day. In light of all the craziness going on this year, I thought it was important to share how amazing we thought you all did and can’t wait to send our daughters back to Crestwood again soon!
I just wanted to send a quick note on the last day of camp to let you know how wonderful this summer has been for the kids. Ella cried last night at the thought of camp ending. She is a devoted Crestwood camper through and through. She loves her counsellors this summer very much and she made great friends with the girls in her cabin. Alex also said that he is very sad at the thought of camp being over and hopes he can go back again next year, which is unusual for him as he generally shows away from groups.
I think this is amazing and a reflection on the amazing program that you put together this year – in what should have been a difficult and “less than“ summer, the kids had their best summer at Crestwood yet. Maybe it’s their age, maybe some magical combination of the kids in their cabins and the counsellors — but whatever you did, you did it very well, so thank you.