Day camps travelling to the kids
This year, the switch from overnight to day camps during the pandemic hasn’t been easy on getting kids there, but St. Malo Catholic Camps is making sure that some Manitoba children have the chance to go to camp where they live.
This summer, instead of overnight camps in St. Malo, director Gabrielle Champagne has made the decision to "bring camps on the road."
Already halfway through its six-week run, the camp travels each week to host two camps, one in English and one in French, to kids ages eight to 13 in different parishes and churches in Lorette, Winnipeg, and Sagkeeng First Nation.
Champagne’s goal was to remove the obstacle of parents having to transport kids to and from St. Malo.
It was important for the campers to be "present with us, in person, in contact" rather than online, she said.
"I know there’s other camps who have decided to do virtual camps and online camps, and we knew that we didn’t want to do that because even though you can still have a relationship with a camper that way, it is very limited," she said.
"We have the position of being able to provide a safe and fun environment for kids to come and just be free, and feel welcomed and invited into our community, and to be able to connect with them, especially on a faith basis."
No matter the changes the camp had to make this summer, she said that relational ministry, the camp’s focus, relies on in-person contact.
In a regular summer, campers would spend their time in big activity sessions in sports, games and crafts, on the beach and in parks, canoeing, swimming and biking.
This year, kids have the opportunity to still be outdoors, and are able to participate in activities, games and crafts in smaller groups.
The camp size has been limited in order to follow the social distancing protocols and COVID-19 specific safety policies they’ve set.
Instead of 250 campers in a regular year, the number is down to 24 kids at a time, and rather than hiring about 25 staff members, the camp has kept it down to eight in total, four in the English camp and four in the French camp.
Even though there are fewer campers this summer, Champagne says that the Sunshine Fund still has a huge role in helping parents send their kids to camp this year, "especially this summer, with so many parents that might be going through financial hardships especially because of COVID, who might have been laid off or just struggling, the Sunshine Fund has helped a lot."
She emphasizes safety above all, and now her goal is "getting the word out that we are still running."
"We’re following protocols, and it’s fun even while following these rules, that everyone is safe."
Campers are still able to register for day camp for the next three weeks.
By: Gillian Brown
How to help
To donate, send cheques to the Winnipeg Free Press Sunshine Fund, c/o Unit F-1215 Henderson Hwy., Winnipeg, MB, R2G 1L8.
You can also call in with a credit card number to 204-784-1130, or donate online at mbcamping.ca, clicking through to the fund’s Canada Helps donation page.