Freedom—June 25, 2021—”Singing, laughter, friendships: simple memories that last a lifetime” — the mantra of the Carroll County YMCA/Camp Huckins will be in full effect starting this weekend as summer camp opens.
The 94th summer at Camp Huckins will look nothing like the 93rd. The camp was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but officials and campers are gearing up for a summer to remember this year.
“It’s going to be a Huckins summer,” Executive Director Heather Kiley said by phone Wednesday. “We are ready to open. We’re all looking forward to welcoming campers on Sunday. We open at full capacity with 360 campers.”
Camp, which is for girls in grades 3-8, is scheduled in four sessions, June 27-July 10, July 11-24, July 25-Aug. 7 and Aug. 8-21.
While most of the sessions are full, you can go to camphuckins.org/ about-us to see about openings.
“People can always inquire as the summer goes along,” said Kiley.
In the summer of 1928, Camp Nellie Huckins opened for two weeks for boys only. The following summer, it opened for the entire summer — four weeks for boys and four weeks for girls. Huckins became an all-girl camp in 1966.
Kiley took over the reins from Jody Skelton, who retired last year after 51 summers at the camp. One of the things the duo had to do was make the painful decision to cancel camp last June with the pandemic in full sway. Yet, despite not being able to hold camp in person, over 500 alumni attended virtual reunions in 2020 according to Kiley.
Kiley and her staff are following all CDC and state COVID regulations to keep campers safe.
“Fortunately, most of the staff are fully vaccinated, and almost half of the campers are, too,” she said.
“Campers who are unvaccinated or who are not fully vaccinated will need to have a negative COVID test 3-5 days prior to arrival and will participate in all surveillance testing (check-in day and day 5 testing),” a newsletter on the camp website stated Monday. “They will also need to quarantine at home if they are a close contact with a positive COVID case at camp.”
According to Huckins Associate Director Mark Cadman, in the spring Huckonian newsletter, the Huckins Re-Opening Task Force met weekly since last July “to reimagine all facets of camp life during the time of COVID. The COVID-committee of the board of directors and the task force has worked diligently to assess all parts of the Huckins operation, considering and reworking policies, procedures and practices to open camp safely. From cabin stop and daily scheduled to health care and food service, this group has drafted plans for a safe and successful return to camp,” he said.
The plans, according to Cadman were reviewed by the Huckins Medical Advisory Group, an alumni group comprised of physicians, nurses and epidemiologists.
A breakdown of additional re-opening expenses topped $1 million and included: $250,000 for COVID-19 testing; $53,000 in food service and doing changes; $65,000 in staffing-related expenses; $32,500 in added hand washing and restrooms; $45,000 in temporary housing costs; $14,500 in additional medical supplies; $45,000 in tents; and $500,000 in capital improvements to the facility.
Kiley said a 400-square-foot tent was purchased to help spread out the seating in the dining area.
COVID has led to a few minor changes to programs, according to the newsletter that went out on Monday.
“Meals will look a bit different this summer. Cabins will still have their own table, but it may be in the dining hall or in the adjacent 400-square foot tent. Campers will wear masks when entering the meal and when picking up their food from a buffet that is served by staff. Your favorite Chef Joel foods will be on the menu, as will pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, gluten-free and vegetarian options. We will not be singing inside the dining hall (or the tent) during meals, but we are building in other times where our community can sing and cheer outdoors with physical distancing,” the newsletter said.
“The horseback riding program has been canceled for summer 2021. We are hopeful that our horses will return to Huckins for summer 2022.
“Our regular hike trip programming will not be offered this summer.”
“We’re going to have to do things a little differently, but I know our campers are in for an incredible summer,” Kiley said.