Michigan summer camps strive to move forward during the pandemic

Posted at 9:58 AM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 10:04:27-04

Summer fun is drying up across the state, as summer camps close their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds of summer camps across the state have canceled summer camps, while others are looking for ways to make it work.

Michigan is home to more than 1,000 licensed summer camps and like most small businesses, the pandemic is forcing all of them to make tough decisions.

“i think you’re safe to say that 50 percent of camps have shut down and the others are in a modified summer experience," said Steve Prudhomme.

Steve, the president of Grace Adventures and the Christian Camping in Michigan, says the staffing and financial issues are the biggest burdens.

Others are also facing challenges.

"We call Camp Roger our own little slice of heaven," says Doug Vanderwell. He serves as the executive director of Camp Roger and Camp Scotty in Rockford.

For the first time in 107 years, the camp canceled overnight camps, modifying programming to a day camp experience, but it’s just not the same.

"We lost all of March, April and May. Go camps are great - financially they are different than overnight camps, "Doug said.

Summer camps were part of the paycheck protection program, but the dollars only went so far. It left smaller businesses focused solely on summer camps to close not only for the summer, but for the rest of the year.

"Unfortunately, like many small business there are going to be casualties… unfortunate there’s already going to be hearing that, " Steve said.

Grace Adventures also canceled camp this year, finding new ways to pivot, making ends meet through retreats and their Dunes Harbor RV Park.

"Last year Grace Adventures served over 40,000 people throughout 5 different programs, this year we’ll probably serve 15,000," Steve said.

As the pandemic lingers, Steve Prudhomme says the future of summer camps is looking more bleak than ever.

"Now's the time to reach out, as a faith based community praying is a big deal, camps should talk to you and you should be talking to the camps, find out what their needs are," he said. "In the future if you’re part of a church or in a school, are there ways that we can partner together to provide for the care and welfare of children and families, strategic partnerships moving forward are going to be really important."

If you’re still on the fence about sending your kids to summer camp… prudhomme invites parents to call the camps and ask questions about their COVID-19 prevention tactics and how they’re working with the state to protect children, there’s also a number of camps allowing campers to connect virtually.

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