Summer Camp, Now More Than Ever

A camp director on why the overnight experience is an antidote to the pandemic

| 23 Mar 2021 | 03:03

Thinking about sleepaway camp? It is more important than ever for the reason that we all know: COVID-19. The pandemic is all about isolation; time away from our closest friends and family members, an absence of group activities, no team sports, and reduced access to one of the core human drives, the need for affiliation. Camp is the solution for all of that.

I started as a counselor in the 80’s at Camp Robin Hood. I met my wife there and she is now Head of Girls Camp. I love camp, and I love what it does for young people. We live in the great age of information and technology, but all of this digital connection comes at a cost to our interpersonal connections. Our kids have less opportunity to explore who they are as individuals, who they are in a group, and to take the physical and social risks in a nurturing, safe environment that are so necessary to holistic healthy development. Camp is a proven safe haven, and our kids emerge from the camp experience more resilient, creative, athletic and confident.

So you want to send your child to camp? Good news! There are hundreds in the Northeast, and the American Camp Association of NY and NJ even has a free service for parents. When researching a camp, remember to ask questions about their COVID protocols, ask to speak with their director and medical staff. Ask what happens if there is a positive test on camp. Do they have a quarantine cabin so a cohort can be a separate group that will still be able to experience camp life?

Last summer, at Camp Robin Hood, a coed overnight camp in NH, our medical team followed the science and created one of the world’s only 400+ person COVID-safe bubbles. The entire camp community tested at home pre-camp, again upon arrival and again six days later. After the third and final test came back 100% negative, our medical director declared camp a bubble and one of the safest places on earth. I will never forget being part of more than 400 people unmasking in unison. We celebrated as a new camp family in our home away from home.

Updated Protocols

Camps are currently planning for this year with updated protocols and are excited for Summer 2021. Besides working at Camp Robin Hood, I also run Corbin’s Crusaders, one of the largest afterschool programs in NYC. For years, I have kept kids engaged and fostered their social and athletic development. I see the long term benefits of the sleepaway camp socialization and group dynamics. In September, you can tell pretty quickly which kids have been to overnight camp. They are the ones with tons of confidence to take risks in both sports and friendships. They love to tell stories about their summer and they quickly understand that in sports, losing leads to learning and learning leads to growth on and off the field.

Parents ask me all the time what camp is best for their child. There are so many factors that go into this choice. First, understand that your child will want to go for a number of years, so this is a long-term decision. Second, you need to trust the administration to deal with any issues. They could be as small as “my child has a limited diet” to as large as what happens if there is an outbreak during a pandemic. If you trust the director, administration and medical team, you should feel confident that your child will be safe. Each state has various health requirements but camps that are ACA (American Camp Association) accredited follow a strict set of regulations that make all aspects of the camp safe. The accreditation includes staff background checks, water safety protocols, food safety protocols and many other details about the property.

Overnight camp is a special place, and your kids will make friends for life. Our motto at camp is you “come for a summer and stay for a lifetime,” because children take camp and their friendships with them forever.

Peter Corbin, M.A. Ed.M. is Director, Corbin’s Crusaders, New York and Program Director, Camp Robin Hood, New Hampshire

In September, you can tell pretty quickly which kids have been to overnight camp. They are the ones with tons of confidence to take risks in both sports and friendships.