What YMCA Camp Cosby was like the 1st COVID summer + 2021 plans


campers at YMCA Camp Cosby
Even a global pandemic couldn’t stop safe outdoor fun at YMCA Camp Cosby in 2020. photo via YMCA Camp Cosby

In early 2020, YMCA Camp Cosby was looking at a banner year, but COVID had other plans. We reached out to executive director Steve Merifield to learn what camp was like last summer. Plus, we found out what parents and kids can expect if they decide to try again this summer.

Bham Now: What was Summer 2020 like at Camp Cosby?

kids swimming at YMCA Camp Cosby
Although COVID meant lots of changes at summer camp in 2020, kids still had a fantastic time at YMCA Camp Cosby. Photo via YMCA Camp Cosby

Merifield: Summer 2020 was a very interesting summer for our families and for camp. We did a lot of work trying to prepare for what summer would be like in a new sleepaway camp landscape.

Before COVID, we were on the verge of a 1900-2000 camper summer. After the state released their health orders, our focus was to see what could be our best options.

A lot of our families made the decision not to attend, which we respected and understood. But we still had camp with a lot of changes in place focused on safety, and we had a lot of fun!

If you want to register your child(ren) and/or donate to YMCA Camp Cosby, you can do both today.

Bham Now: What types of safety measures did you put into place in 2020?

masked camper at YMCA Camp Cosby
Masks did nothing to stop smiles at camp this past summer. Photo via YMCA Camp Cosby

Merifield: Communicable diseases at camps are nothing new. Think throw-up, viruses, strep and lice. Luckily, what we did to prevent COVID helped with all the usual things you might expect in the course of a summer.

For kids + staff

  • Limited the number of kids in the cabins + the total number of kids at camp. Made sure everyone could sleep socially-distanced.
  • Installed hand washing and sanitizing stations around camp. Worked to make hand sanitizing part of daily life before anyone went into any buildings.
  • Trained staff on social distancing and mask-wearing.
  • Started health and safety education from the moment kids rolled up to the camp sign. Welcomed them with masks and temperature checks.
  • Did temperature checks twice daily every day for all kids and staff.

For parents

  • Put a document on the website to lay out some of the COVID-19 things we were doing. We were very transparent, open and honest. For example, parents wanted to know “will it be the same?” The answer was “no.”

Bham Now: What was camp like for the kids?

camper on a horse with a counselor at YMCA Camp Cosby
Oh, the joy of riding a horse at camp. Photo via YMCA Camp Cosby

Merifield: They had fun! We found that kids needed it this summer, based on the spring and how it shook out. Once they got to camp, they didn’t miss a beat with having a happy smiling experience.

They still got to do activities like in the past with a different structure. For example, there were no big groups. We moved the location of the opening ceremony from the lake to our “campfire 2.0 location” with chairs spread out. But we still had songs, camping out on our camp out night and a cookout.

Usually, ages nine and up are able to choose their activities each evening for the next day. This year we had a daily schedule where cabin groups stayed together and moved around all the activities as a separate unit.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, we did surveys with the kids. We discovered that the kids’ experience was even more positive and more fun this way. They actually enjoyed spending a lot of time with their cabin mates. They also had fun trying out activities they might not have tried otherwise. That was exciting for us and warmed my heart.

Bham Now: What are you planning for the summer of 2021?

camper on a zip line at YMCA Camp Cosby
Flying high. Photo via YMCA Camp Cosby

Merifield: We plan to use the same system and model for 2021. Based on health orders at the time, we may try to tweak it a bit to make it even better.

The same programming will be in place with the daily schedule cabin setup. At this time, we plan to keep capacities low—we know this summer won’t be the time to run camp with 250 or 260 kids a week.

We do have some fun stuff like a new water element and a climbing wall to make it even more fun.

Bham Now: How did COVID affect Cosby financially, and what can people do to help?

registration is now open for YMCA Camp Cosby 2021

Merifield: There were significant financial implications (between $500-750k) from having fewer kids. We’ve had to cut positions and furlough staff.
With COVID the way it is, YMCA Camp Cosby is 100% reliant on summer sleepaway camp revenue. We’re not able to do other programming right now. This includes outdoor education, school programs, retreats and weekends.
There are two ways people can support us:

1. Register your kid(s) for camp

We’ve reduced deposit from $150 per child, per session to $21 to make it easier on families to make that commitment. We kept the rate increase for next year as manageable as possible for all families.

2. Give to YMCA Camp Cosby’s Annual Campaign

This is the greatest and best opportunity to help us. Do you have the means to help Camp Cosby and our families thrive in 2021? Support the annual campaign—it’s one of the best things you can do.

Register your child(ren) for YMCA Camp Cosby and/or donate to the annual campaign today. Follow YMCA Camp Cosby on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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