Summer is usually a season full of outdoor youth programs and camps, but COVID-19 has resulted in the cancelation of many events. The summer programs that weren’t canceled either transitioned to a virtual format or a revised in-person gathering with extra precautions in place.

Camp Hope for Kids, located in Schwenksville, had to cancel most of their in-person programs but were able to provide a special experience for several children on July 18. The camp uses mentors and environmental lessons to connect children with nature.

Youth with the Pottstown-based nonprofit organization Centro Cultural Latinos Unidos, also known as CCLU, learned about fitness and nutrition through outdoor activities at Camp Hope for Kids.

The nonprofit CCLU is a bilingual organization which provides services such as educational, recreational and cultural programming to the Latino community. Students spent the day outdoors on the campgrounds engaging in activities such as rock wall climbing, swimming and lessons on healthy eating.

Edie Shean-Hammond, president of the CCLU board of directors, said the children were able to participate in the camp because of a grant from the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. The original program planned under the grant was canceled because of the pandemic so CCLU made a revised plan to do an outdoor camp experience instead.

Shean-Hammond said a special program of Camp Hope for Kids called “Camp Miracle” incorporated principles of nutrition, exercise and health into the day’s agenda.

“This particular miracle is to help them achieve goals,” she said.

Camp Hope for Kids volunteer mentor Naomi Stephen said students receive one-on-one mentoring through the Camp Miracle program and participate in character building activities. Stephen said fitness was the main theme of the day.

“The primary focus is the fitness program. It allows kids to know how to take care of themselves. They learn more about nutrition, fitness, aerobics and mental wellness,” she said.

Stephen said one of the highlights of the day was seeing the students complete a fitness trail.

“The kids had a really good time and we’re able to learn something while they were there,” she said. “They left really joyful and excited to come back.”

Rita Paez, CCLU executive director, said students became more comfortable throughout the day and it helped that each child had multiple mentors to guide them through activities. Paez said the pandemic has been extremely difficult for some families of CCLU because they don’t have access to technology and therefore can’t participate in virtual programs. She said Camp Hope for Kids allowed the children to have fun in nature.

“This really helped them to relax,” Paez said.

Several COVID-19 precautions were in place during the outdoor camp. Each student had their temperature checked in the morning and wore a mask throughout the day. The camp also provided hand sanitizer which was used before each meal.

Stephen said this is the only program the camp can operate this summer because of the pandemic.

“Because of COVID, we had to cancel most of our in-person camps and we now need to fundraise in order to sustain the property,” she said.

The camp is having a community appreciation day and fundraiser on Aug. 1 from 4 to 7 p.m. The address is 129 Yerger Road in Schwenksville.

The community will be able to enjoy the campground basketball courts, soccer field, rock wall, ziplines and more. Everyone who attends is asked to wear a mask. Admission is free but donations will be welcomed.

People can also donate to the camp through their website www.hopeforkids.org.

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