Summer camping organizers cautiously optimistic

Many local organizations are gearing up for summer camping and outdoor recreational activities for children and youth after a year absence. The people who run and organize these events say they are cautiously optimistic about opening them up this year.

“You feel bad. Kids have missed out last year and with the demands of school, you really feel bad,” David Spencer, executive director of Sacandaga Bible Conference, said.

Sacandaga Bible Conference of Broadalbin offers programs for youth of all ages including summer camping with plenty of outdoor activities from archery, rock climbing, canoeing and kayaking to crafts. One recent addition this year is a lower level 11-foot-high zip line for children who may be hesitant to get to a 30-foot-high ropes course.

“Our schedule revolves around the outdoors. It is fun and adventurous, and parents feel safe to place their children in a program that enriches them with Christian values,” Spencer said.

Spencer said it was a lot of work putting together a program of camping, but he said the staff has felt renewed excitement.

“We will make this as normal as possible for the kids,” Spencer said.

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made recommendations for unvaccinated as well as vaccinated camp attendees on wearing masks outdoors. According to the CDC, camps no longer require masking outdoors in most circumstances.

The CDC still recommends that summer campers, staff and volunteers who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces. Other recommendations include physical distancing, testing, and limiting attendees contact to a fixed amount.

“Parents still ask if their children have to wear masks all day. We assure them that the state requires masks indoors, but not outdoors,” Spencer said. “It is always exciting to see how the kids grow in camp. People don’t realize how much they learn.”

According to Spencer, the Sacandaga Bible Conference’s summer schedule and activities utilize the outdoors for most of the day.

There is still space available; visit for more information and to register.

Churches are gearing up for their Vacation Bible Schools this summer after a year hiatus. This includes Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church, Fonda Reformed Church and Glen Reformed Church.

Fonda Reformed Church will have their VBS the week of July 19 to 23 with the theme Hero Central; among the changes brought by the new CDC and state guidelines include having both morning (9 to 11 a.m.) and evening (6 to 8 p.m.) sessions to accommodate most family’s children and still maintain safety in numbers. Another change is that preregistering is required when in other years the church allowed last minute walk-ins.

Pastor Bonnie Orth of Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church said their VBS will have individually wrapped snacks during their summer program. Before the children shared a bowl of Cheetos or other snack, she said.

“Vacation Bible School is fun where you learn stories from the Bible, and participate in crafts, games, and science projects,” Orth said. “We remain cautiously optimistic. We used to have around 45 kids, but this year we don’t know what to expect.”

Deja Donde is a parent of four. She said she signed up her daughter Rhiannon and son Seamus for the Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church VBS. Another son, Liam, will be a volunteer.

“My kids have been 100 percent remote,” she said. “They had pretty much nothing to do with other kids and this will be their first social activity in a year.”

Donde said her daughter Rhiannon is hesitant, yet excited to be around other kids in a social activity for the first time since the pandemic.

“The only thing I am hesitant about,” Donde said, “is that adults have been vaccinated, but children have not.”

Donde said she wonders if staff and adult volunteers will maintain social distancing and wear masks around children.

“We are being very cautious,” she said.

To register for Vacation Bible School, contact the respective churches directly.

By Patricia Older