Safety Top Priority

Camp Onyahsa Provides Summer Programming

YMCA Camp Onyahsa is offering high-quality, low-cost programming this summer amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, which includes some "Green Thumb" therapy or recreational opportunities in the woods. Camps facilities are available for structured programing or unstructured programing for individuals, groups or families this summer.

DEWITTVILLE — While much of the nation and the local area has been locked down or in various stages of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, many summer camps, day camps, resident camps and other recreational-leaden organizations have had to shutter their operations for the rest of the 2020.

YMCA Camp Onyahsa has pushed forward and found a way to provide recreational opportunities while promoting social distancing in the great outdoors. The camp has also found a safe way of provided programing opportunities not just for child care, but for the whole family this summer.

“With a great deal of research on the pandemic and the advice of medical professionals,” said Jon O’Brian, YMCA Camp Onyahsa director, “we realized we could not safely provide traditional youth resident camping this summer. Because COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, it is not safe to have kids from different households sleeping in the same cabins. So, in early April, we began to plan for youth day camping Mondays through Fridays at our 160-acre lakefront site, to give kids some sense of ‘normalcy,” and working parents another opportunity for quality childcare.”

While Camp Onyahsa may not able to provide a traditional resident camp experience this summer, it is able to provide an outdoor childcare experience that contains many of the same activities that can be found in a traditional residential camping experience all the while social-distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing and other protocols and safety measures are strictly enforced by camp staff. Moreover, family members have been kept in mind with the expanded programing. Camping experiences can include boating and canoeing, archery, arts and crafts and even an overnight stay if desired.

“We also realized that family members from the same household could stay overnight or just choose to engage in short-term programs on the weekend, and launched Family Camp,” O’Brian said. “This weekend program allows families to safely ‘de-quarantine’ for any combination of four-hour activity blocks, up to 28 hours, which includes an overnight stay. The Onyahsa staff will guide each non-intersecting family through traditional camp activities. Families, basically just need to show-up. We’ll do the work.”

A young program participant navigates the Pfc. Joseph Dwyer Obstacle Challenge Course at YMCA Camp Onyahsa during camps altered COVID-19 programing, July 10. Camp Onyahsa is offering a variety of tailor-made, one-of-a-kind programing opportunities this summer amid the world-wide pandemic outbreak for families, groups and individuals.

“In addition, we are renting our cozy and fully-equipped lakefront cottage to daily for one family of up to six members, who wish to be on the lake and in the woods, but do not need our program staff to guide activities,” added O’Brian. “Usually this cottage is used by the resident camp program, but with intentionally lower enrollment this summer, it is available for family rentals.”

The camp staff is also broadcasting short traditional evening programs to members of the camp community who cannot be present this summer and is conducting an online merchandise store in an effort to stay connected to the community.

“It’s all about keeping the connection and preparing for a Covid-free future when we can bring everyone back for youth resident camp, but we will also likely retain the best of this summer’s day camps and family programs.” O’Brian said.

O’Brian said the camp’s recent $1.5 million capital campaign made much of the lakefront facility available for year-round use, allowing for family camps from September through May, youth weekends once it is safe to hold them, and opportunities for families, groups, and organizations to rent the heated cabins or the entire site for postponed graduations, memorials, wedding receptions, and other community events.

For more informationcall the camp office at the Jamestown YMCA at 662-2802 or email the camp at office@onyahsa.org.

YMCA Camp Onyahsa staff and campers who are part of the camps "Child Care in the Woods" program this summer meet at the flagpole prior to commencing outdoor programming, July 10. Campers and staff are required to follow safety protocols which include proper distancing, sanitation standards and mask wearing amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, all the while partaking in some traditional camping activities like boating and canoeing, arts and crafts and nature education.


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