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July 4, 2020

A Place to ‘Be a Kid’ Again: Summer at the YMCA

By Kelli Biandudi

Camp at the Y may feel and look a little different due to COVID-19, but Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA Vice President of Operations Bart Cape assures parents that “at the end of the summer and at the end of the week when your child comes home, we definitely know that they have had a great experience and it will be certainly something they will never forget.” 

As a parent himself, Cape is always thinking about safety. “We’re always thinking about our children to make sure they’re in a positive, safe environment. We are prepared for that at the Y. We’ve got a lot of safety protocols we’ve put in place.”

The extra precautions, which Y camp leaders and counselors have been trained on, follow the recommendations of the American Camp Association (ACA), Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) and other medical professionals. They include temperature checks, staggered curbside check-in, low camp ratios and spaced-apart activities to practice social distancing when possible when inside.

“We’ve got thousands of campers who’ve come to us in the summer. We have a lot of trust there and we’ve really been able to do that even more in the last 10 weeks with our Youth Relief Care for essential workers, which has really prepared us well,” Cape says. 

Kathleen Rocamora, grandparent to Maliyah, 8, and Da’Khye, 6, sends the siblings to YMCA Camp Cristina, where she sent her own kids growing up. “At the time I was a single parent, and I just remembered how much fun they had and they always wanted to go back. That was huge for me because I did not have to worry if they were being properly cared for or not. Their excitement to go back every day let me know it was the right place for them,” she recalls.

Rocamora had no hesitation sending her grandchildren back to camp again this summer. “They are super excited they are going to get to see all of their friends. Maliyah gets to work with the horses, so she is over-the-top excited. As far as the precautions in place, I am confident they will be at the safest place possible, besides home of course. The lower ratio groups, temperature taking, cleaning protocols and just being outside make it very comfortable to leave them there. They also need to go somewhere they can be kids again and just play and have fun with no worries.” 

Maliyah and Da’Khye’s favorite activities at camp include swimming, zip lining, rock wall climbing and canoeing. “They love every experience they have there. When they are there, they get to just focus on the next fun adventure,” Rocamora says. 

Cape says while extra precautions are being put in place, some things never change. “We have kids who come on the very first day of camp and they are so apprehensive. They’re nervous. They’re not sure who they’re going to meet. Some of them don’t want to get out of the car. Some of them are crying because they don’t want to come, but, at the end of that week, we might have that child crying because he or she doesn’t want to go home. It happens every summer.”

YMCA camps and staff are experienced and ready for a safe, fun-filled summer adventure. Parents can register at www.tampaymca.org/letscamp

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