By Jill Fox
After more than six weeks of being sheltered in place, the glimpse of hope for many parents was their children’s annual month away from home.
With sleep-away camp on the minds of many Parkland families since the coronavirus pandemic began, and the current situation of excessive screen time and moms on edge, summer can’t come fast enough.
Unfortunately, what seemed more promising than ever is the latest to fall victim in the COVID-19 situation.
Bobby Harris is the Director of URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia, one of 15 Jewish reform overnight camps that serve more than 10,000 campers nationwide.
Harris released a video on Aril 30, announcing that the North American Leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism has decided to suspend all onsite camp operations for the summer of 2020.
According to JTA.org, the Reform movement, the largest in the United States, is the first to suspend its official summer camp network– the first time in over 70 years.
Harris said it became clear that opening camp would pose too much of a threat to the health and safety of Camp Coleman campers, staff, and faculty.
Kim Porterfield, whose husband, Adam, went to Coleman for the majority of his childhood, said the tear-jerking message from Harris made her sad for her son because of the relationships he had formed at camp; some of the closest friends he’s made.
Griffin, 11, would be spending his third summer at Camp Coleman, and he feels like he’s missing out.
“It’s devastating,” said Adam, who is in a group text with other Coleman alumni, “We were saying we couldn’t imagine getting the news a month before camp starts — it just doesn’t seem possible.”
Sharon Cooper, who sends her twin sons, Jacob and Jonathan, 9, to Camp Coleman, was devastated when she heard the news.
“Not only do I think they could have used the break this year, more than ever, but I would have enjoyed it as well,” she said.
She was also looking forward to a break from electronics and so much screentime but said their family might go on some nice trips to try and make up for it.
Another popular summer destination, Blue Star Camps, in Hendersonville, North Carolina, sent an email to families on the same day, stating summer camps are similar in nature, each organization is unique.
“As a privately-owned camp, we at Blue Star believe it is still too early for us to make the call.”
It’s not just sleep-away camps shutting their doors. Marleen Forkas Camp at the Levis JCC in Boca Raton also sent an email to parents on April 30, canceling their summer program.
“I am sad for the kids, especially the young ones, even if it is the safe thing to do,” said Nicole Mavrides-Dweck, whose daughter Stevie, 3, travels to the JCC camp from Parkland.
She said, camp was supposed to be where they got back to playing with other kids, and now that it’s canceled, kids will be alone again.
Allison Weiss, mom to twin girls, Jordyn and Taylor, 5, said camp was a significant part of her childhood, and she thinks it’s important for her girls to have that experience and socialization.
“While I completely agree and understand that camp should be canceled this summer since you can’t exactly social distance children, it is disappointing,” she said.
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