Camp Chestermere is preparing for fall rental opportunities following a successful summer despite challenges that COVID-19 brought.
Camp Chestermere shut down on March 13 and lost any possible revenue from rental groups from March until the end of June, and five of the seven year-round staffers were laid off until camp days were allowed to reopen.
“Our year-round staff came back and in 10 days we flipped from being fully closed to being fully functional and opening day camps,” said Camp Chestermere Director, Shannon Dean.
From June until the end of August, cohorts of eight-day campers and two leaders participated in regular day camp activities.
“When we’re running at full capacity with day camps and overnight camps, we would have up to 230 kids a day on site and around 80 staff. With COVID-19, the most we had in one week was 89 kids on-site and 50 staff. It was a dramatic decrease in the amount of people on site,” Dean said.
“We had over 950 kids register, we had over 50 rotational staff go through, and we did not have one case of COVID-19,” he said.
Without the support of Alberta Health Services (AHS), and the Chestermere Emergency Management Agency (CHEMA) operating day camps throughout the summer wouldn’t have been possible.
“We were grateful to AHS and CHEMA, they were very helpful in helping us to reopen and help to get us going,” Dean said.
A variety of protocols were put in place to ensure campers and staffers were safe and following COVID-19 guidelines throughout the summer, such as pre-screening questions, and getting each campers’ baseline once they arrived on site.
“Some kids whenever they get out of the water, it could be 30 degrees and they get out of the water and have a runny nose, it’s a thing, they can’t help themselves. So, for us to know that was their baseline, it helped us have a successful program,” Dean said.
“When the camp was actually going, it looked like camps, kids were kayaking, kids were doing archery, kids were doing target shooting, and pool noodle fights were the biggest thing ever,” Dean said.
Adding, “We judge success if kids go home with a smile on their face, and they want to come back, and that happened week after week.”
In addition to COVID-19 protocols, increased cleaning and sanitization practices were implemented throughout the summer.
“Over the summer we put in over 2000 hours of volunteer time. One of the things with COVID-19 was the increased demand for disinfecting and cleaning. Every week we had around 15 volunteers helping to do our cleaning, and we cleaned every high touch surface every hour on the hour,” Dean said.
Moving forward, Camp Chestermere is offering out of school care, and facility rental options at reduced capacity in the fall.
“We opened programming for before and after school care, we thought it was going to be a hit, we thought it was going to go really well, but unfortunately, we’ve had very low registrations. We knew we could staff it; we knew we could run it; we knew the rec centre was not running theirs, and we thought it was a natural fit for us to be able to help the community,” Dean said.
“Thankfully, we have the space where we can offer space for people to utilize and follow COVID-19 guidelines,” he said.
Adding, “We are operating as a rental facility right now, but the fall looks really uncertain. No school field trips hurt us, and the daycare not taking off the way we thought it would.”
Through the fall, Camp Chestermere will continue to offer rental options for birthday parties, corporate groups, and hourly rentals for families to do activities such as archery, and kayaking.
“People can rent out our waterfront. Maybe you want to have a barbecue with some extended people, but you’re not able to run it in a socially distanced way, we have six and a half acres, so bring your 20 friends, rent out our waterfront area, have your barbecue and do it in a socially responsible way and follow all the public health guidelines,” Dean said.
In response to the uncertain fall, Camp Chestermere has launched a Keep Camp Alive campaign to assist with funding.
“We know that times are financially really difficult for a lot of people. A lot of our programming and rentals is people gathering based, and that is a tension in COVID-19. We’re looking for large numbers of people to donate smaller amounts,” Dean said.
“If we are able to get 1000 or 1,500 people who are donating $25 a month, then that will keep the lights on, keep the door open, and keep our people employed,” he said.
Adding, “For us, that number of 1,500 people is not unrealistic, because we had 950 campers this summer. Usually we put through 1,600 families in the summer.”
Moving forward, Camp Chestermere is open to partner with local organizations, while taking suggestions from residents of what they want to see offered at Camp Chestermere.
“Camp Chestermere is the answer is yes, ask the question. We start from yes, and we work backyards,” Dean said.
“In this time, we still want to find ways to be a gift to the community, because that’s the DNA of who we are,” he said.
To book a rental, or to donate to the Keep Camp Alive campaign, please visit the Camp Chestermere website at, https://www.campchestermere.com/.