The City of Campbell River’s day camp program for children with special needs will be busy around town this summer.
The program achieved liftoff this year thanks to funding from partner organizations.
“If you see 12 people wearing blue shirts out and about with kids all over Campbell River, chances are these are City of Campbell River instructors leading modified versions of our Summerside Express and Rec and Read programs for some of the more vulnerable children in our community,” says Michele Sirett, acting manager of the City’s recreation and culture department.
Due to losses caused by the pandemic, the City reduced many summer recreation services to help balance the budget.
Thanks to a collaboration with the Ministry for Children and Family Development and School District 72, funding is available for these scaled-back programs.
The city says its programs encourage physical distancing but do not enforce it among children so that they can use playground equipment and play games such as tag.
Most activities take place outdoors.
“We recognize that play is vital for children. To reduce the risks related to COVID-19, we’ll be going out in smaller groups than usual and doing daily health checks. We will also emphasize hygiene and provide for handwashing as children begin and end their days in our programs,” Sirett says.
“Families with children who have special needs are experiencing unique struggles in the COVID-19 environment and have expressed gratitude that we’re finding creative ways to support them and keep everyone active and safe.”
Usually, the city provides up to three weeks of summer programming for as many as 80 children who live with a variety of special needs.
These programs provide respite for the families and help build community connections, independence and life skills for the children.
During a program assessment last year, families reported feeling more supported, less stressed, and part of the community – and that their children felt appreciated and accepted by participating.
“Through Summerside Express, children with special needs have a unique opportunity to socialize together, to play and to shine,” Sirett said.