Camp Reed starts virtual sessions as pandemic cancels summer camp

PEND OREILLE CO., Wash. — Organizations have had to get creative during this unprecedented time. Many have turned to technology, like the YMCA.

Normally, Camp Reed has about 200-300 kids running around the campgrounds in Pend Oreille County, about 30 miles northwest of Spokane. This week, Camp Reed and Camp Goodtimes started to live stream virtual camps. Camp Goodtimes is free and meant for kids who have cancer.

“It definitely hasn’t been an easy decision. The one we know we had to make,” said Phil ‘Buster’ Harrison, Camp Reed’s executive director. “You know, first and foremost, their health is what matters most to us and is what’s most important so we wanted to make a decision that was keeping that in mind.”

Kids who come to the camp range from third to ninth graders. During the virtual camps, they do several activities like art projects, sports trivia, sing songs and more. The virtual sessions are free.

“We can’t do it in person so how can we still make them feel like a kid?” Harrison said. “Keep them engaged some how, some way so they still feel apart of the magic.”

Virtual activities is nothing new to kids.

“They were super excited to have something,” said Katie ‘Krusty’ Swain, Camp Reed’s director. “You know, school’s over and you know, they’ve been doing virtual school so I think this was kind of a good primer for us because they’re used to doing a little bit of stuff online.”

They said they’re trying to keep the kids interacting with others and counselors. The campers were given ‘swag bags’ full of camp clothes and other activities that they can use to follow along with the virtual camps.

“We can still run our normal games, like you guys are the magic of camp,” Harrison said. “You are the ones who deliver the fun. Let’s just deliver it somewhere else now.”

Swain said it’s about keeping the community together even if it’s online.

“I mean, we miss you,” she said. “We’re looking forward to seeing your faces at virtual camp.”

Camp Goodtimes is free no matter if it’s online or in-person. Harrison said they’re giving families gas cards this year instead of paying for their gas to drive up to camp. They also gave them gift cards for food this year.

If Spokane County is approved for Phase 3, they can host pop-up camps at the Finch Arboretum. Those will be twice a week and you must sign up for them.

“If we can just capture a little bit out here and take it to town, I think it does give a little more magic through the screen,” Harrison said.

In addition, families can rent out cabins on the campgrounds with social distancing in mind.

To tune in to a virtual camp, visit their website or look on their Facebook page for the Zoom link.

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