The Importance of Camp During the Pandemic

Here we are, welcoming a new year with well wishes and the hope that 2022 will bring an end to what has been a long two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new year is typically a time for celebration and new beginnings, but for many children and teens, the ongoing pandemic continues to weigh heavily on their overall mental health. Medical professionals are reporting a rise in mental health challenges in children and adolescents whose lives have been disrupted.  This includes a rise in depression, anxiety, suicidality, and social isolation in young people. Children are falling behind in school, having more behavioral problems, and experiencing loneliness and disengagement. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that the pandemic has created profound challenges that threaten the well-being of youth, including increased reliance and use of social media for communication, a decrease in independence, and an overall strain on hope, resilience, and perseverance. Health professionals are concerned that pandemic-related stress and traumas may have a lasting effect on the developing minds of children and teens. AAP President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP, said “Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic and while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients.” In recent weeks, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant has resulted in some temporary school closings, cancellation of non-essential activities, and the postponing of celebrations, leaving everyone both physically and mentally exhausted. 

Given the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on kids…There has never been a more crucial time to give kids an overnight summer camp experience.  Camp can provide kids with a sense of calm, stability, and normalcy during these uncertain times.  Camp engages kids and gives them a sense of belonging. From early morning line-up, all the way to evening activities, campers are interacting with their camp family in a structured and supportive environment.  Camp provides opportunities that may have been altered or taken away in the current school setting, like working in groups, taking on leadership roles, and developing problem-solving skills. Most importantly, camp allows kids to unplug from screen time and social media and replaces online communication with authentic face-to-face interactions. A summer camp experience can bring back some of the normalcy of pre-pandemic days.  Camp days are filled with exciting activities, special events, and camp traditions, allowing kids to develop the confidence, resilience, empathy, and life skills that will help them successfully navigate through the summer and all year long.

Summer 2021 at Iroquois Springs looked a bit different from previous summers, with strict safety guidelines and protocols to keep our camp community safe and healthy, but camp continued to be the same wonderful place it has always been.  It remained the perfect place to take on new challenges, develop new skills, get creative, build lifelong friendships and become “difference makers.”  No amount of COVID-19 testing, mask-wearing, or handwashing could get in the way of our camp family coming together and making memories. Changes in the world may have led to changes in our programming, but what didn’t change was the spirit, excitement, and fun our camp family had in summer 2021. 

We are confident that Summer 2022 will be even better, as we look forward to post-pandemic days and a greater sense of normalcy.  We are all invested in keeping our kids happy and healthy during times of crisis and uncertainty.  Summer camp can be a very powerful place for providing kids with the consistency and stability they need. Our focus for Summer 2022, like every summer, is to offer campers a safe, supportive, spirited, and fun environment where they can “just be kids” and have the summer of a lifetime!