COVID-19 hasn’t stopped one archdiocesan summer camp from giving kids the time of their lives, even amid a pandemic.
Camp Rainbow has been providing full days of activities and adventure for residents of St. Edmond’s Home for Children in Rosemont. The intermediate care facility serves children, aged six weeks to 21 years, who are affected by a range of profound physical and intellectual disabilities.
The first Catholic home of its kind in the United States, St. Edmond’s is part of the continuum of support offered through the developmental programs division of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS).
With its often medically fragile residents at high risk for the coronavirus, St. Edmond’s staff have “modified the camp to ensure the health and well-being of the children” while “keeping it fun,” said administrator Denise Clofine.
Typically, the camp – described by staff as “eight weeks of organized chaos” – features a mix of swimming, cooking, crafts and gardening, as well as “snoezelen,” a multisensory environment experience designed to reduce anxiety and to stimulate communication skills.
Participants also enjoy frequent outings to nearby attractions, including the Adventure Aquarium, Dave and Buster’s, and the Upper Darby Summer Stage.
This year, coronavirus restrictions prevented such field trips, along with on-site parades and other large group activities.
But staff rallied to keep the 20-year camp tradition going strong.
“We decided that we were going to do everything in our power to bring smiles to the children’s faces and provide as much fun as possible in these ever-changing conditions,” said activities coordinator Julia Vivanco.
Organizers divided the campers into small, socially distant groups and arranged for a weeklong series of “mini-parades” to celebrate July 4, with children rolling their wheelchairs over sheets of bubble wrap to simulate fireworks.
An in-house arcade was set up for campers to enjoy switch-activated bowling and a “tabletop hover soccer matches,” Vivanco said.
She and her colleagues also constructed “a world of tactile play,” with a Lego Land, a Mr. Potato patch, puzzles, water beads and a rice bowl made to look like a watermelon.
Staff “brought the Adventure Aquarium to St. Edmond’s,” Vivanco said, by fashioning a shark tunnel from tablecloths and poster board, and a jellyfish tank from lanterns, coffee filters and streamers.
“We even knocked a few plastic fish down with our switch-activated water guns,” said Vivanco.
Campers have been delighted by the counselors’ creative revamping of their summer schedule, she said – as have the counselors.
“To see the children smile and laugh during these activities has been the highlight of our camp days,” said Vivanco.
Clofine noted that “the entire community of St. Edmond’s home has embraced this new normal for (its) children and young adults.”
“They make sacrifices to keep those in our care safe,” she said. “They continue to arrive with a smile and laugh in the midst of this unprecedented time.”
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