By Ginger DeShaney
Staff members at the Edgerley Family South Boston Boys & Girls Club just want kids to have a typical summer camp experience this year.
“We’re excited to get back to a little bit of normalcy,” said director of operations Tim Bothwell. “The staff is excited to get back to the fun aspect … Just having the positive energy of kids in the building and having fun and interacting with one other.”
Added Caroline Moreno, membership director, “I would love for them to be able to have fun and be around each other again. So many of our kids have not seen each other and have not seen our staff for over a year now. It’s always good to make new friends and create new bonds with people they haven’t seen or they wouldn’t get a chance to see in school or in the community.”
Tim, who has also taken on the role of summer camp director this year as longtime director Anne Gordon is retiring, added: “Part of the summer program is to meet new friends from different parts of the city. It’s always good to make new friends.”
Right now, summer camp is limited to 150 kids, which includes 30 spots dedicated to Junior Staff and teens in the Young Leaders Program. The Club already has enrolled 120 kids, 28 of whom are brand new to the Club.
Families can still register their children for summer camp, but they will be put on a waiting list as the Club awaits word from the state and the Department of Public Health on camp guidelines. Depending on what the state says, the number of campers could grow and kids would come off the waitlist.
“It’s just a waiting game,” Caroline said. “We need to see what the state does and what DPH allows.”
Families can register until June 1. Summer camp runs from July 6 to Aug. 20 for ages 6 to 13 and costs $375 for the entire summer.
Last summer, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the summer program was much smaller, with not even 75 kids in the building, said Tim. The Club’s summer camp normally accommodates 300 kids a day.
“We’ll base it off how we ran it last year,” Tim said, noting they employed the cohort model. “We had a dry run last summer.”
Each cohort will be its own mini Boys & Girls Club, Tim said. The Club tries to group each cohort by interest. For example, campers who are interested in art will be together in one homebase, campers interested in computers will be together in another homebase, etc. Total square footage of the room, calculated with 3 feet of social distancing, determines the number of kids per homebase, said Caroline. She figures most cohorts will range from 12-15 kids per room.
While the cohorts will spend a lot of time in their homebases, they will rotate to different areas of the Club, such as the gym, pool, music room, games room, etc. The cohorts will also utilize the outdoor space around the Club, including the lawn and the outdoor basketball court.
“The cohorts don’t mix,” Tim said, noting if there are any COVID-19 outbreaks, the Club can shut down the cohort and not the entire building. “They’ll stay with their cohort all summer long.”
Health screenings are done each day and there are staggered drop-offs and pickups to accommodate social distancing, said Caroline. Campers are served socially distanced breakfast and lunch.
The cohorts will have some virtual field trips with Club partners, including the Museum of Fine Arts, which will host virtual art activities. Each homebase is equipped with TVs and computers for Zoom calls/virtual field trips, art supplies, video games: all the things they’ll need to keep them occupied, said Caroline.
Each cohort will have a minimum of two adults as well as two to three Junior Staff and Young Leaders, who are all teenagers. Junior Staff come from organizations such as SuccessLink and other city programs, which pay them. The Club runs the Young Leaders program for 13- and 14-year-olds and they are paid stipends.
While camp will look different again this year because of COVID-19, there’s another big change. “[Anne has] been the summer camp director here since I was a child,” said Tim, who was a South Boston Club Kid himself and attended summer camp. “This will be the first summer I walk through the building in 37 years that Anne won’t be here. It’s going to be a huge loss for us. We’ll miss Anne a lot, but she’s definitely taught a lot of us the ropes.”
Tim said the staff is excited to get back into camp planning and implementation. The Club is closed to the kids for two weeks after school ends and before camp starts, Caroline said, so the rooms can be transformed into “camp” spaces and plans and activities are finalized.
“It’s always great when you see kids who don’t know each other become best friends by the end of the summer,” Caroline said. “It’s great to see kids creating those bonds and friendships with our staff and with other kids in the Club.”
Caroline looks forward to “just getting back to something a little bit more normal and getting the kids to be active. And definitely being able to see them do all the fun things they’ve been missing out on this past year.”