'This Summer Is Different': As Coronavirus Restrictions Ease, YMCA Summer Camps Adjust

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The YMCA logo decorates the wall at the Roxbury YMCA. (Paris Alston/WBUR)
The YMCA logo decorates the wall at the Roxbury YMCA. (Paris Alston/WBUR)

As coronavirus restrictions ease, it remains unclear whether summer camps will be able to open for at least part of the summer — but camp operators are making preparations in case the tradition can continue this year.

The YMCA of Greater Boston operated 25 day camps in Massachusetts last year and three overnight camps in New Hampshire. James Morton, chief executive officer of Boston's YMCA, told WBUR's Sharon Brody he's hopeful that children will have chances to enjoy the summer camp experience.

Interview Highlights

On whether the important experiences summer camp provides are worth the public health threats presented at this unprecedented time:

"The risks are not worth the challenges associated with what might happen if there is an outbreak at camp ... We won't do anything with respect to day and/or overnight camp unless we can do it safely, and we will follow the advice of Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh of the city of Boston and our public health officials. But given the chance, we look forward to providing them with all of the excitement that always comes with a summer camp experience."

On how summer camps can reevaluate what it means to resume safely: 

"One of the benefits that that we have at the YMCA of Greater Boston is that we've been operating emergency child care centers — 12 of them in the city of Boston for the children of essential workers — and our experience in providing safe places for children will help us as we transition to day camp. We've already established a number of protocols that we think are working and will simply transition those protocols to our day camp experience. We have a screening process for every child and every adult, including staff that are in spaces where children are located. We also take every child's temperature twice a day [and engage in] lots of hand-washing, lots of sanitizing and wiping down of commonly touched surfaces. We also do an extensive cleaning at the end of every day and in all of our adult staff are wearing masks and gloves ... We are doing our very best to comply with the social distancing requirements because we believe that hand-washing, masks and social distancing are our three essentials to keeping our children and staff safe from the coronavirus."

On how to maintain social distancing at camp when so many of the activities are group activities: 

"We've got to figure that out ... Many of our camps have room for us to keep keep young people apart from one another. There's also a secondary strategy: putting children in pods where they're with the same group of children each and every day, and you limit the access that they have to one another by virtue of keeping ... smaller ... 'family pods.'"

On how different the summer camp experience will be this year and how much will be pretty much the same: 

"Our goal is to make this the best summer ever. That's certainly one of our mantras every summer. But this summer is different. This summer ... has to be different than than any summer camp experience we've offered before, because children are experiencing so much more now than they've ever had to experience. And we want to bring their lives back to a sense of normalcy. Frankly, we're thinking of one word, and that is relief. We want to provide our children with as much relief as we possibly can."


Headshot of Sharon Brody

Sharon Brody News Anchor
Sharon Brody is the voice of WBUR's weekend mornings. On Saturdays and Sundays, she anchors the news for Weekend Edition and other popular programs.


Elie Levine Freelance Digital Producer
Elie Levine was a freelance digital producer for WBUR.



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