Camp Knickerbocker season has begun!

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 10:00am

Hello muddah, hello faddah, your kids are now at Camp Knick-a-bockah;

It’s a place they really like - going swimming or for a hike.

They take their temperature, real reg-u-lar,

Kids wash their hands a lot, every 45 minutes on the dot!

Arts & Crafts and STEM too, there’s so much here for them to do-oo;

They are gardening and planning an escape room, so much more fun than watching it on Zoom!


Yes, Camp Knickerbocker opened for the season June 15! In preparation for the start of camp, cohort/counselors took part in a comprehensive webinar created by the YMCA of the USA, the Camp Association, and others, using the state guidelines.

After being closed for two months due to COVID-19 and Gov. Janet Mills’ guidelines, BRYMCA Director Andy Hamblett said the team of camp directors (Erin Gray/Camp Knickerbocker, Joe Clark/CLC Sports & Specialty Camps, Emily Mirabile/Y-Arts and Theatre Camps) met to discuss what summer camp would look like when and if camps and the YMCA building would be permitted to open.

Families were wondering, too. Gray said the Y was receiving over 70 emails a day, plus phone calls, from parents to see if camp would happen this summer.

Discussions led to the inevitable need to cancel some camps due to COVID-19 guidelines. The directors knew Wet & Wild Camp, which takes campers to places like Aquaboggin and Funtown/Splashtown USA, would be a no-go,  as well as other adventure camps due to the inability to keep up with sanitation guidelines, and not being able to practice social distancing.

Mirabile decided to completely rewrite all of this season’s programs. Y-Arts Camps are being held both virtually and at the BRYMCA annex, the group’s rehearsal space.

On the plus side, new programming was created a Camp Knickerbocker: Nutrition and gardening includes planting raised garden beds with lettuce, zucchini and tomatoes; as well as a program centered around how to know if foods are healthy or unhealthy, and why it is important to eat and drink water; tennis; organized sports single-person soccer, basketball drills, and other activities; outdoor living skills for older kids – fire building, outdoor cooking, and knot tying; younger ones have tree identification; water systems; nature hikes; fishing. And a few times a week, exercise instructors bring yoga, Zumba and more fitness for the campers to the Centennial Stage or an open field – all six feet apart.

“We completely sanitized the facility and camp,” said Hamblett. “We consulted the American Camp Association, Red Cross, YMCA of USA, and other organizations to find out what guidelines we might be able to anticipate with the focus on what we could do.”

Hamblett said supporting the local working families in the region is of the utmost importance and he noted there was increased financial assistance granted for camp this year.

At Camp K, 80 children are registered for the summer camps under the direction of Erin Gray. Each session is one week although Gray said most campers attend most of the camps.

With state guidelines setting 50 people as the limit,  Camp K has divided the cohorts based on which location the campers and staff are coming from. Campers who are dropped off at camp each morning are grouped as a single cohort, divided into smaller groups based on age. Our Alpha, Charlie and Echo pods consist of no more than 12 campers to 2-3 staff. Campers being bused from the CLC YMCA in Damariscotta have the same set up, but their pods are called Bravo, Delta and Foxtrot.

The Y is providing transportation to Camp K. All campers must wear masks and each camper has his or her own seat on the bus that is boarded from the back forward. Buses are sanitized after each use.

To further reassure families, campers’ temperatures are taken twice daily by a registered nurse when they arrive and at lunch. This protocol stands for all Camp K staff, too. Campers are also washing their hands five times a day before lunch and the next 45-minute activity block. Each area used during camp is sanitized before and after use by each group of campers as well as any equipment shared. And there isn’t intermingling between groups this year; each child stays within his or her own group.

Gray noted that some supplies and materials are assigned to each camper, including the new STEM program and the arts and crafts supplies. All the STEM projects lead up to planning and creating an escape room based on the skills the youth learned.

There are also the familiar camp activities: swimming, boating, sports, arts and crafts, and the theme weeks. The first week was Y-Spirit, this week is Disney – Wacky Wednesdays kids dress for the themes that include Superheroes, Outer Space, Pirates and Fairies, Comic Books, Holidays and more.

Hamblett describes Gray as a “calming force. A lot of what we are doing is due to Erin and her team. And having structure has helped families. Erin has forwarded letters she received from parents to me thanking us for finding a way to hold summer camp. Just recently a mom thanked us. Her kids couldn’t wait to go.”

“We were definitely aware that after living without structure for three months would be hard. But by week two, day one, the kids were looking forward to seeing what their schedule was and a new activity. It wasn’t as daunting as we anticipated.” Gray said.

“It’s nice to see that even though we can’t offer some of our normal regular activities good things are taking place: We discovered some things that would be beneficial to continue due to the COVID.

Some of those beneficial things are hand washing every 45 minutes; buddy checks at the waterfront with swimmers putting their hands on the dock rather than finding another camper to buddy up with for a camper count. “We asked ourselves, why didn’t we do it this way before,” Gray said. “I also like how much we are forced to be outside; we go inside only if there is thunder and lightning – and (we are) wearing masks.”

“The real reassuring piece for me is hearing the voices of kids in the woods on nature hikes, taking advantage of the assets we have. We are fortunate to have a 65-acre camp,” Hamblett said.

The Y remains in contact with the schools, LincolnHealth, daycare centers, the YMCA of the USA, and other organizations on a bi-weekly basis for updates on guidelines and changes – if any – and has been since mid-March.

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This article has been updated and corrected from its original posting.