Fewer campers, but Y camp is still all about summer fun

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 7/2/20

Summer camp is back at the Kent County YMCA, and while in some respects it is remarkably different from prior years, in others it is unchanged. For those who have visited Camp Ok-Wa-Nessett at this time of year, it can be teaming with

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Fewer campers, but Y camp is still all about summer fun

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Summer camp is back at the Kent County YMCA, and while in some respects it is remarkably different from prior years, in others it is unchanged.

For those who have visited Camp Ok-Wa-Nessett at this time of year, it can be teaming with activity with between 400 and 500 kids rotating between different activities ranging from swimming in the camp pond to working on crafts and playing games in the camp field.

The pond has yet to be filled. Floating docks sit on the contours of the bone-dry pond. The decision has not been made as to whether it will be used this season, explains Kent Y director Robert Ciossi. Likewise, it hasn’t been decided whether the camp’s popular spray water park will be opened. The Y is awaiting guidelines, says camp director Becky Merritt.

Guidelines for the opening of summer camps establish the maximum number of kids based on the square footage of indoor space to maintain required spacing when campers have to come inside because of inclement weather.

YMCA of Greater Providence Executive Director Steve O’Donnell said the four camps that opened Monday – Kent, Barrington, Seekonk and Wakefield – are fortunate to have that indoor space. Nonetheless, the camps are a shadow of what they were before the pandemic. Kent tops out at 52 campers, and O’Donnell said the limit for the four camps collectively is about 200.

So far, the camps are far from full even at such reduced levels. O’Donnell pointed out this is the first week of camp and that the July 4 holiday week is a time when many families plan vacations and are away. He is hopeful registration will increase going forward.

Also critical to operating during the pandemic is that camps be divided into groups of no more than 15, including two counselors, and that the groups remain the same. Campers aren’t expected to wear masks, but the counselors do. Kent has a total of nine camp counselors, a far cry from the scores of them last year. Guidelines make it impossible to engage in some team sports, but that isn’t stopping sports altogether. Assistant camp director Bill McCabe is looking to competitions, such as relay races, where kids aren’t bunching up or coming into close contact.

Summer camp can be a financial stretch for some families at $325 a week for Y members. Merritt said the Y does offer scholarships.

And how has camp not changed?

That’s not hard to find. A visit to the archery range finds the same level of excitement as campers are instructed how to safely shoot an arrow and then retrieve it from the target.

“I hit it, I hit it!” exclaimed one girl, who proudly pointed to an arrow embedded in the furthest corner from the bull’s eye. Her fellow campers shared in her achievement, but as might be expected, some were ready to do one better.

Even with the reduced numbers, Merritt, who has been running the camp for the last 11 years, was happy to see the kids and the activity.

“[The YMCA] always rises to meet the needs of the community even if we have to wear masks to do it,” she said.

Y camps run through August.

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