Program provides kids with summer camp in a box

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 4:10 PM EDT
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The coronavirus outbreak has forced some summer camps to cancel. But the Rutland community has come up with a way to keep kids busy and the concept is taking off. Our Olivia Lyons gives you a look at this out-of-the-box idea.

Kids in Rutland and part of Addison counties are receiving activity boxes to make up for the cancellation of summer camp.

"We knew that we had thousands of youth that really needed something to do this summer, and so we got together and created the idea of an outside-of-the-box, boxes," said Chris Hultquist of Mentor Connector.

About three months ago, Mentor Connector and UVM 4-H began creating a way to provide educational and life skills to kids. When brainstorming began, organizers planned for 500 boxes over the five weeks. But within 24 hours, more than 1,200 families signed up for the first week. The new total-- 9,500 boxes.

"Kids are really able to build those skills this summer and during their time out of school, so when they go back to school they will be just as prepared as they would have been without COVID," Hultquist said.

Families sign up online, then pick their box up at one of the designated locations. Each activity is created for kids to do alone, with their family or through a Zoom call with an instructor and other kids.

This week's theme is arts and crafts. Each box has materials to construct a duct tape wallet, pocket and water bottle holder. There's also soap for carving, the box can be used to create a marble run and more.

"The best part about it is I can meet new friends!" said Eri Edwards, 8.

Eri is taking part in this boxed program and attending the Zoom calls.

"I feel like they are with me, but they can hear me and see me-- sometimes. And that is what really matters because it means we can connect with each other and build that friendship," Eri said.

Kimberly Griffin is one of the creators of the program. She also leads Zoom meetings for the kids.

"To be able to connect with kiddos, even through the computer and watch their faces as they're making something and they're seeing change happen to go from cream to whipped cream to butter and to just witness that excitement has been-- that's why I'm emotional," Griffin said.

"A focus for the organizations is to make sure these boxes get into the hands of kids who are part of DCF, are homeless or from low-income households.

"Even with all the craziness that goes on, kids are really our future and we are so concerned and want to make sure kids know that and feel special this summer," Hultquist said.

Organizers say they hope to un-box this idea on a larger scale next summer.