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Local camps offering free online programming for kids

Camp Couchiching, YLCC hosting daily online activities during COVID-19 pandemic; 'The most important thing for kids in a time of inconsistency is consistency'
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Many March break plans have been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but two local organizations are doing their part to bring the camp experience to the kids — virtually.

Camp Couchiching and Youth Leadership Camps Canada (YLCC) have been providing online resources to keep kids occupied and entertained.

Camp Couchiching would have been hosting children for March break at this time. The routine would typically include the “morning flagpole,” which includes songs, a thought of the day and activities. Summer camp director Alex Roth wanted to keep it going, so the morning flagpole was moved to the group’s Facebook page.

“Living in a day and age where we are so connected, being able to bring the magic of camp in a low- or no-cost way is a great way to connect with families,” he said.

It’s been well received, with kids from around the world logging on to check it out in increasing numbers since it began Tuesday.

“I’ve seen our viewing numbers go up from day to day,” Roth said. “We have a lot of interaction, which is really neat to see. It’s really heartwarming and it’s why I wanted to get this thing going.”

The morning flagpole live stream usually starts around 9:15 a.m. Camp Couchiching posts different material, including information about community and educational resources, throughout the day. Check out the Camp Couchiching and Couchiching Community Initiative Facebook pages, as they’ll be posting content morning, day and evening, seven days a week.

“We want to ensure there are still some unique, creative activities for parents to engage in with their kids,” said Ross McIntyre, Camp Couchiching’s director of community initiatives. “We want to maintain those social connections.”

Even though YLCC doesn’t host kids for March break, it has decided to offer online opportunities. A couple of days after schools closed, YLCC founder Stu Saunders spoke with the camp director to come up with some ideas.

“We asked, ‘What can we do to give kids some sort of normality and consistency?’” Saunders said.

They came up with a daily list of activities, using the Zoom video-conferencing service.

Every day at 10:30 a.m., the online meet-up, which is open to youth six to 17 years old, includes a joke of the day and a daily challenge, which could consist of crafts or other activities.

Thursday’s “bring your pet to camp” event was popular, with about 60 kids showing off their pets, both real and stuffed.

Next week’s content will include a magician as well as health and wellness information, among other activities.

Each night at 8 p.m., it’s story time.

“There’s no cost. It’s just a way to give back,” Saunders said, noting staff are volunteering their time to help out. “My goal is to keep it going for as long as we can. The most important thing for kids in a time of inconsistency is consistency.”

To get in on the fun with YLCC, click here.

Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is an experienced multimedia journalist and editor who covers Orillia and other parts of Simcoe County.
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