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YMCA’s Camp Reed considering virtual summer camp due to COVID-19

Michael Kelly plays with toy slime at the YMCA’s Camp Reed on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. For the first time in its 105-year history, the kids’ summer camp north of Spokane may host its activities virtually this year due to concerns about the coronavirus. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Michael Kelly plays with toy slime at the YMCA’s Camp Reed on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. For the first time in its 105-year history, the kids’ summer camp north of Spokane may host its activities virtually this year due to concerns about the coronavirus. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

For the first time in its 105-year history, a kids’ summer camp north of Spokane may host its activities virtually this year due to concerns about the coronavirus.

The decision hasn’t been made yet, but leaders of the YMCA’s Camp Reed say they are assessing the threat of the virus and monitoring the state’s phases of reopening to determine whether they can safely offer traditional summer camp.

One option is to shorten program sessions and limit the number of kids assigned to live in each cabin. Another option is to stream camping activities onto their computer screens so they can participate and play along remotely.

“Virtual camp is definitely a possibility,” said Phil “Buster” Harrison, the executive director of Camp Reed. “If we’re still in a Phase 2 scenario, where we have a limited ability of how many people we can have on-site, that would definitely affect our way to operate programs.”

“We understand that there’s also going to be families who may not be comfortable with kiddos coming up to camp or sending their kids out,” Harrison said. “And we want to be respectful of those families, too, and make sure that we’re doing something to engage those kiddos also.”

Camp Reed is about 30 miles north of Spokane beside Fan Lake. It was founded as a boys camp in 1915 following a donation of about 14 acres by Deer Park banker Frank Reed.

Now, according to Harrison, the camp’s summer programs serve about 2,000 children and teens from first grade through their sophomore years of high school.

“We have a rich tradition in the Spokane community – roots just about everywhere in some form or fashion, someone was a camp counselor at one point,” Harrison said.

“One of the things we really try to build is relationships, and how can a counselor have a great impact and be an amazing role model to a kid,” he said. “We hear all the time, ‘It’s the best week of the year,’ from kids.”

One goal of the camp is to provide kids formative experiences that sometimes push them out of their comfort zones, Harrison said. As an example, he noted some kids have never experienced the thrill of jumping into a lake.

Translating those kinds of experiences online won’t be easy.

But Harrison said camp organizers are considering virtual delivery of chaplain talks that are usually delivered each morning at Camp Reed, as well as fun videos of activities like the camp counselors’ belly flop contests.

“We’re really just looking at the entirety of all the programming we do,” he said, “and seeing what could be in more traditional format, where it’s one-on-one, and where it’s like ‘Hey, we’re going to put this video out for your entertainment and amusement.’ ”

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