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What about summer camp? Girls Scouts cancel; others modify plans

The Girl Scouts of Western New York have canceled all overnight and day camps for this summer.

The Greater Niagara Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts say they still "fully intend" to have summer camp this year, but it will be scaled back.

The Jewish Community Center of Buffalo's Camp Centerland is hoping to open — though without any overnight activities, field trips or even swimming.

And smaller weeklong camps are planning on going virtual.

With school buildings closed and classes online because of Covid-19, parents and kids have been wondering what will happen with summer camps. Many parents rely on summer camps for child care, as well as to give their children memorable and enriching experiences while school is out.

So far, county and state officials haven't released any rules or guidelines about summer camps.

The Girl Scouts announced Tuesday that they were canceling all of their summer camps this year, citing the need to prioritize the safety of campers, volunteers and staff in making "the difficult, but necessary, decision," according to a letter from CEO Alison Wilcox posted Tuesday on the organization's website.

The cancellation applies to programs at Camp Timbercrest, Camp Seven Hills, Camp Piperwood and Camp Windy Meadows. All registered campers will receive full refunds.

The organization also is canceling property rentals through Aug. 31 and will issue refunds for those transactions within 30 days.

The Girl Scouts plans to offer alternative and virtual summer camp programs, and the organization is asking girls and their families to respond to a survey with ideas on what they would like to see.

The organization last week had announced that all in-person scouting programs – including troop meetings and travel – remain canceled through June 30.

The Girl Scouts said it continues to evaluate when small, face-to-face gatherings can resume and left open the possibility of troops or families accessing camp properties this summer.

The group's offices and other facilities remain closed until further notice. Visit www.gswny.org for more information.

The Boy Scouts say on their website that camps will continue, but they will only be held at one location, Camp Scouthaven in Freedom. They plan to have three sessions for Cub Scouts and two for older Scouts.

"We fully intend to operate summer camp this summer," the Scouts said on its website, wnyscouting.org. "In order to do this, we are being creative so we can offer an impactful summer camp experience while being thrifty with our resources."

A guide to the 202o season with details about what will be available is forthcoming, the Scouts' website said.

Camp Centerland Director Michael Garcia sent out a letter to parents saying that they hope to offer camp starting June 29 as scheduled. "We at this point are in a good place and keeping out fingers crossed that we will be running this summer," he said. However, field trips, overnight stays, swimming and other activities will not be allowed this summer at the camp.

"Social distancing in a pool while wearing a mask will be a challenge," Garcia said. "Masks can't be worn in a pool."

Smaller camps, like those offered by WNY STEM Hub, are offering at least some of their camps virtually. The science education program is planning to offer its Girls Coding camp in July as a virtual camp. They waiting to see about two other camps they offer.

Alicia Michielli of Buffalo, who has an 11-year-old son, is waiting to hear from the day camps she sends Luca to every year. Already, an overnight camp he went to last year, a cooking camp called Master Chef in Connecticut, announced it was canceling.

She understands that camps aren't in a position to say whether they will be open. Even she's not sure yet that she'd be comfortable sending her son to a camp or making the financial commitment to pay for it.

"I would not make the commitment now even if they said: We're open, full steam ahead," she said. "I can't even temporarily risk that cost, and now there's stuff happening with kids' illnesses popping up. ... I'm sure everyone is all in the same boat and worried about the same things."

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