JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Groups across the Tri-Cities that usually host summer camps were forced to make a tough call last year, with many canceling their summer programs due to COVID-19 concerns.
This year, with a decline in cases, a better understanding of the virus, and most importantly, a vaccine rollout, camps have made the decision to come back. For many groups, registration is already underway.
Earlier this year, News Channel 11 spoke with staff at Bays Mountain who were unsure of the fate of its summer day camp program, but on Monday, registration for it officially opened.
The city of Johnson City also opened registration for its nearly 23 different programs being offered this summer. Sam Miller, the Johnson City recreation services manager said there’s something for everyone, and having canceled programs last year, they’re already seeing interest only a day after officially opening registration.
“Our staff I know is just so excited to get the kids back together, show them a great time, and we actually have families who just return to our camps year after year and they are so excited. They’re calling our camp supervisors already,” said Miller.
Miller said some of the camps focus on a more educational theme, but they have a wide variety of programs offered. Most camps are a week long lasting full days, and others operate as half-day sports camps.
The city is also offering two eight-week-long camps running daily from 9 to 4 p.m. with options for parents who need to drop off their children early or pick them up late.
Safety remains a priority with decreased capacity, but the same number of counselors, ensuring smaller groups.
The Boys and Girls Club of Johnson City & Washington County has had its registration opened for quite some time now. Last year, their summer program was limited. This year, while they will be accommodating more children, safety measures such as mask-wearing will still be followed.
COVID has impacted the way they conduct usual field trips so this year they are getting creative and hosting a virtual field trip across the country with themed weeks based on the destination. CEO and President, Robin Crumley said she thinks this summer will be one for the books, and spots are filling up.
“We are probably half full, so if you are interested, don’t wait to sign up. If you are interested in any summer camp, the sooner the better because the spaces will be limited,” said Crumley.
Crumley said the earlier the better for registration, especially if you’d like to take advantage of their early bird discounted rate that ends on May 1st.
While Doe River Gorge didn’t entirely halt operations last year, they were unable to hold their sleep-away camps, but this year they’re back. So far, 600 kids are signed up and the goal is 900. Grades 2 through 12 can sign up and COVID is still being taken seriously. David Jensen, the director of team leadership at Doe River Gorge said they’re working closely with top medical professionals in the Tri-Cities to make sure it’s the safest environment possible for kids.
This year, he’s happy to be welcoming back the kids.
“Last year was very difficult and very sad not to have the kids here so we are so excited. The kids were so sad that they couldn’t be here last summer and so we really feel like this is going to be a summer of healing,” said Jensen.
It’s the same story for every camp, the sooner you sign up, the better. “Even though we currently have a lot of spots available, the sports are actually going quickly now that people are hearing that we’re opening so the sooner that you sign up, the better,” said Jensen.