Local camps finding ways to stay engaged with kids this summer amid pandemic

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kids and parents are planning for summer, but the trouble could be finding something to do.

Most summer camps are canceling or adjusting plans because of the coronavirus pandemic. But several local summer camp leaders said they’re going to make it work.

The MLB Urban Youth Academy sees around 1,000 kids each summer. This year it’s delaying its program and pushing it out to August. Their STEM curriculum will be done online.

Executive Director Darwin Pennye said the later shift allows them to work with more kids over time.

“We know that kids are missing the opportunity to be out on the field, and we want to do everything we can to protect them, keep them safe. But we also still want to grow the game,” Pennye said. “We’ll just continue to stay hopeful, stay prayerful and know that this too shall pass. We just don’t know where.”

The Girl Scouts are focusing away from their traditional summer camp.

Instead the organization is encouraging members to get outside this summer with weekly downloadable activities the girls can work on with their families.

Gina Garvin, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of NE Kansas & NW Missouri, said the activities will cover many of the topics they teach girls about each year.

“Parents are going to be more involved with their girls and really still see the skills that they’re learning and see their excitement as they earn great things and be in that together,” Garvin said.

The Boy Scouts of America will release their summer plans the first week of June but are still evaluating. They are hoping to move forward with camp sometime in July.

In Kansas City, daycampers won’t be invading Science City this summer, but the attraction will be open to families.

They will be reopening on June 10 and will have two different times when tickets are available each day. They will spend 90 minutes in between cleaning. 

There will be social distancing policies in place. Visitors are not required to wear a mask, but they are hoping people will choose to wear them. Tickets must be purchased in advance and won’t be available at the door.

LeAnn Smith, the director of STEM programming & outreach at Science City Union Station, said it will be good to have kids back to learning about science after months away.

“Unfortunately, it’s the reality of today,” Smith said. “I am at least excited that we are able to reopen Science City. It’s going to look a little different. It’s going to feel a little different. But at least we have a place where families and groups can come and play.”

If you are still looking for a camp your kids can go to, YouthFront is a non-denomination focused faith-based option. It still plans to open at the end of June.

Topher Philgreen, the CEO of YouthFront, said they are working with the health departments in each county their camps are in, abiding by CDC guidelines and connecting with health professionals to make sure their experience is safe.

“Most of the parents that are calling us are begging us to figure out a way to open camp,” Philgreen said. “Obviously, they want us to be safe. And our number one priority is to sell the safe the safety of all the kids.”

Young Life, another faith-based camp that has chapters nationwide, will not be moving forward with their national program this year. Instead, each chapter is looking at options to do things locally for kids in their area.

In the metro, some kids will be traveling to Table Rock Lake in August, working on day camps and hosting club meetings.

Rotary Youth Camp is another organization working to help the children it usually serves. Organizers are working on a back-up plan for children who are disabled and underprivileged.

Allison Kelly, an organizer with the camp, said they are working to find ways to connect with the kids who rely on the program.

“We’re working with all of our organizations to offer virtual programming,” Kelly said. “We’re making videos. We still want to connect. We’re really pushing kind of social media and that summer camp is canceled. It’s just different.”

Kelly said for some of these kids it’s the only time they get to swim in a pool or use a campground for the whole summer. But they’re happy to serve campers in a new way.

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