MALONE — While Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has decreed that sleepover summer camps will not open this summer because of the COVID-19 virus, he gave the go-ahead last week for day camps to offer programs beginning June 29.
Camp Akalaka, the day camp run as a joint venture between the Greater Malone YMCA and Cornell Cooperative Extension, will be ready when that day arrives.
And, camp organizers say, it will be “The Best Summer Ever.”
The slogan for this year’s camp may be ironic in light of the pandemic and the restrictions that have curtailed so many activities, said Brandon Gambill, the YMCA’s director of memberships and marketing and one of the camp co-directors. But the idea behind the camp is to allow children to have fun while not ignoring the current situation, he said.
Camp Akalaka is intended to be “a fun and safe place for kids to go,” said Donna Studlack, the senior programming director at the YMCA.
The summer day camp for children ages 5-12 will run for eight weeks, from June 29 through Aug. 21 at the Malone Civic Center. A total of 50 children will be able to participate each week; they will be broken up into groups of 10 to meet the state’s limit on mass gatherings.
Camp activities will be held outdoors whenever the weather permits and will be spread out throughout the upper part of the Malone Recreation Park, including the playing fields and the Kelly Pavilion. The Civic Center will be used in case of inclement weather.
Each week will feature a different theme, such as pirates or superheroes, and each day’s activities will be different in order to expose campers to a variety of activities and skills, Gambill said. The activities can range from learning to cook to marksmanship, he said.
The programming is different than in years past, when a camper could sign up to focus on a single activity or skill for an entire week, Gambill noted.
While the program will expose campers to a variety of activities, many of them will be used to reinforce the concept of staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gambill said. Games will be modified to maintain social distancing, such as tag played with pool noodles used to touch other players, and camp songs will place an emphasis on skills such as handwashing, he said.
“We’re really trying to keep our safety protocols in place,” he said.
Other measures that will be taken include having parents stay in their vehicles when dropping off and picking up their campers and checking the temperature of each camper as they arrive — with a child showing a fever of more than 100 degrees sent home for at least 72 hours. Handwashing will be required every hour.
Campers will be given the option of wearing face masks, but staff members — mostly college-age people who have worked as counselors before — will be required to wear them.
The counselors will stay with their particular group to help reduce the possibility of virus transmission, Gambill added.
Studlack said she expects many of the campers to come from the child care program the Y currently provides for essential workers. That program ends June 26 — the Friday before Camp Akalaka opens, she said.
The opening of the camp and the planned limited reopening of the YMCA at the same time makes it impossible for the organization to maintain the child care program, she said.
Attending Camp Akalaka will cost $140 per week per child, although the camp will offer a “sibling discount” to keep the cost down, Studlack said. Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity and the Franklin County Department of Social Services will also make financial assistance available for families that qualify, she added.
Registration for the camp is open online at the YMCA website. Campers can register at any time during the camp session, as long as space is available.