CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Summer camp registrations are through the roof in 2021 as parents and kids crave a sense of normalcy as the COVID-19 pandemic starts to slow.
Camp directors said they’re working hard to make things as safe as possible while making room for as many campers as possible.
Clara Dunn, 15, isn’t afraid to return to camp after being cooped up with her family for a year.
"It's been tough, pretty bad," Clara admitted. "That’s honest! I don’t get to see a lot of my friends."
Her dad Steve agreed.
"The kids are suffering from long periods of not being able to do activities that they used to or to socialize with friends in ways they're used to, and it takes a toll," Steve Dunn said.
Both of them are grateful that this summer Clara will be going in-person to her favorite camp, Girls Rock Charlotte, where she’ll learn to play an instrument and rock out in a band. Last year, the annual camp was changed to be virtual.
"It's just more fun," Clara explained about moving the camp back to in person. "You can do more things together than when you’re on a Zoom call."
"We know families are really ready to come back," Conroy said of the record numbers.
Conroy said the YMCA proved last summer they can host campers safely with a focus on social distancing and doing as much outside as possible. In fact, Camp Thunderbird only shut down for a week during 2020, hosting 15,000 people throughout that year, though, admittedly, in smaller groups. This summer, they’ll get back to near full capacity.
"We know how much kids and families need this sense of community and recreation, and the experiences kids get in a normal year are impactful for a lifetime, but right now, with so many children having missed out on so many regular activities, sports, school, sleepovers, birthday parties, we know this summer will be one of their best yet."
The YMCA will offer day camps at 15 different locations across the region, featuring everything from gymnastics to dance to cooking to sports. There's even a ninja warrior camp.
There are dozens of other in-person camp offerings coming back this summer, from the Whitewater Center to ones hosted on college campuses.
"It's going to be hard to return to normal life, but one of those things we have to figure out," Steve Dunn said. "It's important for us to give our kids those opportunities."
The good news is most of the camps WCNC Charlotte spoke to, including the YMCA, said while they’re filling up fast, there are still spots to be grabbed.