Summer camp changes amid coronavirus pandemic – What are your options & can you get money back?

Posted at 3:35 PM, Jun 01, 2020

Starting June 8, 2020, summer day camps are allowed to open again in Michigan. However, for some camps, the decision to cancel, delay, go online, or continue in-person experiences has already been made. Many parents are now wondering about child care, safety, and saving money.


Joseph Mallinger, 13, of Luna Pier, was really looking forward to returning to Boy Scout camp this summer in Ohio. His dad was even going with him.

That is, until the coronavirus cancelled Camp Lakota.

Joseph Mallinger -- now 13 -- is an avid Boy Scout who was looking forward to returning to his week-long summer camp this year.

“I was kind of bummed knowing I wouldn’t be able to see my friends and do the stuff I did last time,” said Joseph.

His father had paid in full for both of them.

“[I am] still finding out if they’re going to refund the money or roll it over into next year. If they roll it over into next year, that would be great. I wouldn’t have to pay for it too much,” said John Mallinger.

Joseph and his Dad John Mallinger were ready to embark on a father-son overnight summer camp experience with the Boy Scouts.

Shortly after our interview, John told 7 Action News that he was notified by the scout master that refunds for the camp are now being issued.

But Mallinger decided to go with his original plan and put the money aside for camp next summer.


Cranbrook Schools Summer Camps are know for their outdoor activities on Cranbrook's lush campus, but this year camp counselors will lead camp online due to the coronavirus.

Cranbrook Summer Day Camps are offering to transfer your money to next summer’s events, too.

But the Cranbrook camps are also going virtual – offering “shorter, live, and interactive versions” of their normal summer camps “at a reduced price” – half the cost of what in-person camp would be.

“We don’t just give up. This is not an industry that gives up easily. We will be in your home with you if we can’t be there in person with you on campus,” said Weston Outlaw with Cranbrook Schools Summer Camps.

“I was thinking when I was nine-years-old as a camper or even 19-years-old as a camp counselor how devastated I would be if I didn’t have camp that summer,” added Outlaw, saying that is driving Cranbrook Camps’ vision for this summer of non-traditional camping.

But if an online camp doesn’t work for you, Cranbrook will give full refunds.


But before you throw in the towel and ask for your money back, consider that attending a “virtual” camp could be a plus for your child.

“Now is the time to put your children into things that maybe they couldn’t do before probably because there was a scheduling conflict or it was too far away from your home,” said Clint Salter – founder and CEO of Dance Studio Owners Association.

Salter works with dance studios worldwide – including eleven in Michigan.

He’s been advising them to come up with a virtual summer plan.

But he urges parents to ask a lot of questions about the curriculum.

“[Make sure there are] lots of different activities that engage the child so they don’t go run and play in the curtains or go and jump on the couch,” said Salter.

He also said making sure social interaction with peers is included – even if it is virtual – is vital.

“It builds their confidence. It lets them not feel isolated. We have a lot of teen depression happening at the moment. They’re missing their friends. So, giving them that environment and space to connect with each other and share,” he said is crucial.


Spring Hill is not going virtual.

It has canceled some day camps and June experiences, but Spring Hill is going forward with some day camps beginning June 8, 2020.
Its Michigan Overnight Summer Camps were slated to start July 5th, but they'll be contacting campers with updates.

Spring Hill’s health and safety commitments include hand sanitizing, social distancing, and daily temperature checks – just to name a few.


Of course, some camps are still waiting to make a decision about what to do this summer.

John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids – which offers day and overnight camps – posted “in the event that camp needs to be cancelled the decision will be made at least 2 weeks prior to the start of the camp session, and all participants will receive a full refund.”
Again, the state is allowing day camps beginning on June 8, so cancellations may not happen. Contact your camp for more information.

The Ann Arbor YMCA is offering summer day camp opportunities for youth ages 5-16 across Washtenaw and southern Livingston counties.
Full-day, in-person camps are available starting July 6th.
Virtual opportunities will begin the week of June 15th.

All YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit locations are closed at the time of this story, but the ‘Y’ is offering child care programs at its Farmington location weekdays -- with safety protocols in place for staff and kids.

Here’s your Rebound Rundown:

  • Contact your camp to find out your refund or transfer options.
  • Monitor your camp’s website or email alerts closely to check for updates.
  • Make sure you understand new coronavirus-related safety protocols for in-person camps.
  • Ask about the curriculum and discounts for virtual camps.

The good news is many camps that book up five-to-six months in advance may have space available now, and virtual options should be cheaper.

But in those cases, your kids will still be at home – so this presents a child care dilemma for many parents.

Just remember, all these changes are with your child’s safety in mind.