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Kids Return To Summer Camp After COVID Kept Them Away Last Year

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Coronavirus-related closures put a damper on summer camps last year. But this summer, we've got something wonderful just for you.

CASEY KLEIN: We have a big pile of dirt that we pour water on, get muddy. We've got a mud queen and a mud king (laughter) award for whoever the kid is that gets the dirtiest.

SIMON: After all this time working from home, can I at least dip a toe? It's Casey Klein, director of Geneva Glen Camp, located in the Colorado mountains. They have hiking, horseback riding, a ropes course and more. The campers are back this year after a suspended season last summer. But with so many children under the age of 12 too young for the vaccine, COVID safety is now part of the Geneva Glen experience. So...

KLEIN: Every camper that comes up has to have a COVID test prior to coming to camp. Four days into camp, we can then test again and know that everyone in this camp community is safe.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KLEIN: We have typically done our meals family style. This year, we - all the camps had to go to a buffet style. So we've got staff masked up, in gloves serving, you know, that big spoonful of mashed potatoes to the campers and the counselors on the other side. We had to buy a lot of picnic tables to get kids outside eating and other things, tents. If anyone's going inside, we're putting on the mask. Once they're outside in their cohort, then they can remove that mask.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KLEIN: Where we've been challenged is a lot of our activities after dinner - a lot of those were the whole camp together. And this year, we just can't do that. Our counsel ring we consider the heart of Geneva Glen. There's sort of three different bleachers that circle around a campfire. And so the entire camp gathers in this counsel ring. The songs are sung. Skits are done. Everyone crosses their arms. They hold the hand of the person next to them...

UNIDENTIFIED CAMPERS: (Singing) So let your tail go swish and your wheels go round. Giddy up. We're homeward bound. I like to ride my horse...

KLEIN: This summer, that has been one of the things, honestly, that's kept me up at night. I know how special it is for all the campers and counselors. And we are not able to do that in the same way. We can't have everyone in there. We surely can't have them holding hands. And so we have made adjustments. Each different cohort split up so that they're not right on top of each other. They'll be about 10 feet apart. When we're singing, we do have to have the masks on. And so it's - it has changed us a little bit. But it's as close to our traditions as possible while doing it safely.

UNIDENTIFIED CAMPERS: (Chanting) Fire, fire, fire. Pour on water. Pour on water. Save my children. Save my children. Jump, jump. (Singing) Old Lady Leary left a lantern in the shed. And when the cow...

KLEIN: With how everyone's been locked up and having to go to school on Zoom and that sort of thing, I think we are the emotional and mental healing for a lot of these campers and counselors. I hope they come away with the same enjoyment and love of this place that they have in every other previous summer. I hope that they enjoy the traditions that - while they they might have had to be adjusted a little this year, we still celebrate the same thing.

SIMON: Casey Klein, director of Geneva Glen Camp in Indian Hills, Colo. Campers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.