Children Need Camp More Than Ever Before

May 13, 2021

YMCA Camp Mason, nestled on 500 acres in Hardwick, Warren County near the Pocono Mountains, has been a beautiful environment for Heidi Morrison, of Manhattan’s East Village, to send her children to overnight camp – until last year when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down their summer plans.

“We have really loved that camp for all the times that my kids have been going there,” said Morrison, whose son, Sam, will be returning this summer for a month-long stay. “That camp has so much going for it. It is a simple environment where kids can unplug from computers and phones, camp under the stars in a tent, learn how to deal with bugs and sun, cold and heat. They can exercise new muscles and have an awesome time with their friends.”

After the pandemic canceled camps across New Jersey, many parents were left scrambling to find activities for their children, while still trying to quarantine and staying indoors. After all that isolation, parents say children need camp now more than ever. 

“Camp is going to help kids return to normalcy really,” said Camp Mason CEO Keith VanDerzee. “They need that break to explore hands-on activities, new interactions with kids and adults. And camp will provide real experiences, not remote.”

The New Jersey YMCA Associations operate over 100 day camps and five overnight camps throughout the Garden State, including a dozen at Fairview Lake YMCA Camps, a branch of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges, which CEO Rick Gorab oversees. He said camp can’t start soon enough.

“No one really understands at this point, what the social, mental and physical impact on kids will be as a result of the pandemic,” Gorab said. “And that’s one thing that sleepaway camps, in particular, and day camps, in general, provide. They offer an opportunity for kids to maybe resume some mental, physical and social wellness activities that they all will be in search of and certainly need.” 

Camp Mason, which was founded in 1900, and Fairview Lake Camp, which was founded in 1915, have long and storied histories.  Last year was the first time that their overnight camp programs were closed. While enrollment in both camps is underway, the number of campers will be smaller to comply with guidelines from the state and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Camp Mason and Fairview Lake YMCA locations are both idyllic. There is access to the Appalachian Trail for hiking, and to the Delaware River for a variety of watersports. Thrill seekers can explore the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Fairview Lake YMCA Camps sit on mile-long Fairview Lake in Stillwater, Sussex County on 660 acres. Both sites offer specialty camps for all kinds of activities, including arts and crafts, theater arts, sailing, science, farm, and ranch. 

Morrison said her son Sam, 16, is counting down the days.

“He’s a little extra excited this year because he missed out last year,” Morrison said.  “We were really glad the YMCA took COVID very seriously. And we’re looking forward to this year because it seems like there will probably be enough people vaccinated to be safe as long as they follow careful guidelines.”