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Summer camps ready to welcome campers back

After a shorter season with fewer campers, Maine summer camps are expected to be more 'normal' this year

MAINE, USA — Maine summer camps are now required to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines to open this season, but because kids 12 and younger aren't able to be vaccinated yet, best practices will remain in place for many camps.

At some camps, construction was necessary, like at Camp Wawenock in Raymond, where they are adding a new dining hall and bathroom, as well as other safety precautions like testing to allow the opportunity to get back to full capacity safely.

Camp Wawenock director Catriona Sangster said campers will be tested for COVID-19 before they arrive at camp and again five days into camp to ensure a healthy summer for everyone. Counselors will be vaccinated.

The plan is to still be careful, and take things outside.

"I mean, that's the beauty of camp. We get to do so many things outdoors so that was easy," Sangster said.

From an overnight camp to a day camp, Camp Ketcha in Scarborough is following those same CDC guidelines. For Tom Doherty and his staff, that's easy to do because they have had day programs all year long.

"A lot of our families work in healthcare and had to get back into work," he said. "We didn't have a choice."

He said they have been able to stay safe, and the families who send their children to Camp Ketcha have been positive.

Ron Hall, executive director of the Maine Summer Camp Association, said camp staff is working hard to make camp as normal as possible this year.

"I think the biggest difference will be indoors," Hall said.

Hall said all but three of the state's camps will open for in-person programs this summer. One of the camps that will not is Camp Sunshine, which for the second year in a row will be virtual.

Jerusha Chicoine and her family have been going to camp for eight years, ever since her 8-year-old son, Foster was diagnosed with a tumor in his eye.

The Chicoine family will participate in the virtual camp again this year.

As with most families, they struggled during the pandemic.

"The challenges are each other," 10-year-old Broderic Chicone said.

"It's a lot of time together," his mom, Jerusha Chicoine, said with a laugh.

Camps may not be back 100 percent, but there will still be a number of children from across the country going to camp here in Maine this year.