Camp JCC to run modified program this summer

The Jewish Community Center of the Lehigh Valley has announced that – with some modifications – Camp JCC will be on for this summer.

“We’re keeping our eye on June 15th, which was supposed to be opening day anyway,” said JCC Youth and Camp Director Kristen Johnson. 

Since the JCC had to close due to the stay-at-home order, staff members have been on Zoom calls daily with JCCs and camps nationwide, gathering the most up-to-date information about best practices for operating safe summer programming for children. On May 18, they received the American Camp Association's "Field Guide for Camps on Implementation of CDC Guidance,” outlining specific recommendations and approaches that supplement the CDCs original guidance for child care programs.

“We have altered our camp programming in order to fully comply with the guidance we have received from the CDC, the American Camp Association and our state government. We know that both parents and children are feeling a strong need for our services, and we want to assure everyone that we are taking this responsibility very seriously,” said Johnson.

“Though we have cancelled our field trips and on-site programs from outside entertainers, the essence of camp remains the same,” she continued. “The children will be having lots of outdoor fun in small groups with their peers. They will have a ‘home base’ assigned within the building where they can keep their belongings, participate in fun group activities and eat their lunches. But they will also be using our new recreation area in the upper parking lot, enjoying the playground that is being delivered from the Center Valley camp site, playing non-contact games and sports on our athletic field, and participating in science, nature and arts activities outdoors. On top of that, we expect to be able to open our indoor pool for 45-minute free swim sessions every day for our campers.”

Sadly, the difficult decision was made to cancel specialty camps for at least the main summer session, but the traditional day camp program will continue. Capacity is expected to cap at eight groups of 10, equaling about 80 campers each week.

“We will still have fun theme weeks and special events, opportunities to learn tons of camp songs, dance parties and baking up yummy treats,” said Johnson.

The biggest changes this year will be staying at the JCC camp location for the full camp day, keeping camper groups separate from one another, intensely sanitizing activity areas after each use and having a consistent health screening process upon morning drop-off. All of these measures and more are being taken to ensure that campers, their families and staff are safe.

“We have hired a fantastic group of highly creative, friendly, energetic staff members who understand that their role as counselors this year is even more important than ever before. We'll be providing our campers the socialization and fun that they so desperately need, and we'll be giving them a safe and supportive place to come every day after months of uncertainty,” added Johnson.

As Lehigh County enters the yellow stage of quarantine, Camp JCC will be ready.

“I personally feel like the mission of camp has become invaluable this year. We have seen families doing incredible bonding and working through extraordinary circumstances over the past months. But we also know that many families need daytime care, and that kids are really missing their friends and time around same-age peers. We are excited to serve our community in this way, and we are honored that families are trusting us because they know that we care about their kids and that we are taking every measure to make this a great but very safe summer,” said Johnson.