Area summer camps reopen after pandemic year, but challenges remain

Derriyan Dunson, 8, plays in the pool during summer camp at Northwest Recreation Center Thursday June 10, 2021. Jim Noelker/staff
Derriyan Dunson, 8, plays in the pool during summer camp at Northwest Recreation Center Thursday June 10, 2021. Jim Noelker/staff

Late state health order lift blamed for planning and employee needs.

Parents have traditionally sent their children to Dayton-area summer camps to let them learn new experiences and in most cases spend time outdoors away from cell phones and TV.

The pandemic stopped all camps last year and because of the last-minute state health order changes this year it made the summer difficult to plan for parents and camp organizers.

Many of the most popular Dayton-area summer camps are already sold out, and others cancelled their plans due to low signups. Some summer camps also report difficulty with hiring enough staff.

Dayton Recreation and Youth Services canceled several weeks of its summer camp at the Lohrey Recreation Center in Belmont. The other location, Northwest Recreation Center, has not been affected.

Stephan Marcellus, division manager of recreation, said not enough kids signed up for camp. He said they are not sure why the camps aren’t getting as many signups as before, but he speculated it may have to do with Dayton Public Schools getting out on June 29 this year.

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Parents whose children were affected by the two-week closing were offered spots at the Northwest Recreation Center, but Marcellus said he understood that was not an option for everyone.

Marcellus said there are still summer camp slots available.

Summer camp councilor, Julian Newson watches the children at Northwest Recreation Center Thursday June 10, 2021. Jim Noelker/Staff
Summer camp councilor, Julian Newson watches the children at Northwest Recreation Center Thursday June 10, 2021. Jim Noelker/Staff

Taylor Hoffman, director of marketing for the Dayton Society of Natural History, said the Boonshoft Museum of Natural History has seen more interest than usual this year.

“However, through the month of June we kept the maximum number of campers at half normal capacity, so securing a spot was a little more competitive this month,” she said.

But, she said as the mandates change, the Boonshoft expects to be able to allow more kids into camp.

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Mary Azbill, a city of Kettering spokesman, said Kettering’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department chose to shorten the camps due to many schools having a longer academic school year. But she said there was also a hiring challenge for the camp leaders and aquatic staffing, so the department chose to run camps with smaller numbers of campers to match staffing.

Most summer camps began planning for the season well before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine lifted the health orders early in June. They expected small, socially distanced groups.

That also means many summer camps are limiting the number of kids they accept.

Glen Helen Association executive director Nick Boutis said the Glen Helen day camps were originally planned for 10 people, nine kids and one counselor. Since then, some restrictions have lifted.

Overnight camps were canceled, but Boutis said the Glen plans to resume them with schools in the fall.

“There’s pent up desire for kids to get out in nature to interact with one another,” Boutis said. “I mean as a parent myself, I can tell you it’s palpable.”

Contact Eileen McClory at 937-694-2016 or eileen.mcclory@coxinc.com.

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