Vermont summer camp enrollment booming

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 6:29 PM EST
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PITTSFORD, Vt. (WCAX) - Summer is just over four months away and many parents are concerned there won’t be camps for their kids. Most camps didn’t open last summer due to the pandemic and even now they still don’t know exactly how this summer will operate. But that’s not stopping a rush of families eager to get in line.

“We were just awfully careful this past summer. It worked out. Nobody, fortunately, had symptoms or were ill,” says Phillip Williams, owner and director of Camp Wachusett for Boys in Hubbardton.

Williams said he used the knowledge he gained at his job in a continual care retirement community to host his camp last summer. “I had an optimistic view at that time about opening during the summer. I had a lot of parents who were very actively trying to persuade me to open, probably because they wanted a break. And the kids really needed something to do other than be inside,” says Williams.

He says smaller numbers, staying outside as much as possible, wearing masks, and creating a bubble helped make it a success. “Boys that were new and families that were new last year, nearly every one of them have signed up,” says Williams.

“Enrollment is booming,” said Jed Byrom, director of Camp Sangamon in Pittsford. He says camps are looking at ways to host the same number of campers this summer in a larger area. “For this time of year, there is a lot for camp directors to do and that is fairly abnormal. This is a relatively relaxed time of year a lot of the time for everything other than enrollment. We are not usually working on our physical camps when there is two feet of snow on the ground.”

His camp, like many others, was not open last summer. “It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could safely open, it was that I didn’t know. I felt like there was a lack of information about it,” says Byrom.

“Last summer would have been his third but, COVID,” says Jill Doody, the parent of a camper who attends Camp Sangamon. Her son, Ben, is signed up for camp this summer.

Ben says he’s excited to go swimming and be around people after learning through a hybrid model at school. “It will be nice. I think it’s going to be really good,” he said.

“People are desperately wanting their kids to have another experience. Something other than being home or being virtual or half virtual or hybrid,” says Byrom.

As a parent, Doody says there is always a hesitance, but her son needs this experience. “Sangamon and camps, in general, are so important for kids and I am hopeful for this summer,” she said.

While some summer camps have already canceled, hopeful directors like Byrom and Williams say they hope Vermont releases summer camp guidelines earlier this year than they did for last summer.

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