Naturally parents are concerned about the return to school coming shortly. There may be some comfort in knowing Variety Village has just successfully completed their 7 week summer camp.
Since July 6th the Village has hosted 400 children ranging in age from 5 to 14 and to their credit not a single camper, counsellor or staff member has come down with Covid-19.
So today they had a chance to share their story and celebrate their success.
As Karen Stintz said “under normal circumstances we wouldn’t celebrate the end of camp but this not a normal year and what we want to do was talk about why the camp was so successful and also showcase that it can be done during a pandemic and that as parents and kids are going back to school and let them know that there is a way, that there is a way forward.”
And a big part of that success was the kids themselves. According to Stintz “I would say that there are certainly a couple of things ...lessons that we’ve learned. Number 1 is that kids actually know what’s happening they are taking their precautions, they are washing their hands, they are sanitizing their hands, they are keeping their social distance, they understand that their are new rules.”
And while some parents may have been reluctant to send their little ones off to camp, every kid came back and there were parents that if they had booked two weeks they stayed for the two weeks and some parents extended to the whole summer because it's such a great experience for their kids.
Variety Village offers a truely unique experience because it’s one of the few places in the city where kids can come play along side kids with disabilities.
“We offer a unique service for the community and we know it's a service that the Community Values so when we weren't able to offer that service during the closure, it was a difficult time not just for us but for the community.
Just ask Lindsey Paisley whose son Pierce, age 8, attended camp this year along with his older brother Charlie aged 10. She describes the camp experience as “incredibly important”.
At first, when schools and Variety Village, were forced to closed Pierce was “out of his routine and didn’t really understand what was going on and he loves Variety Village. He loves other kids and he loves being social.”
During the closure, Paisley and her husband who both work full time, had to take morning and afternoon shifts with Pierce who requires continuous supervision. It also meant working until midnight sometimes to keep up with their demands of their jobs.
Feeling isolated? Stintz says “50% of kids with disabilities say they have no friends and so they live social isolation and so that’s why Variety Village becomes that much more important for these kids”
She goes on to say, “we were really excited when we were able to open camps and we were equally grateful to the families that trusted us to be able to provide this camp service for their kids. The feedback we had from the families that said their kids came out of their shell through the experience of being at camp.Kids have a new awareness around disability and inclusion by being part of our camps.”
Pierce, Andrew, and Variety Village CEO Karen Stintz just hangin' on the swing
So nervous parents may not have to look any further than Variety Village.
As Stintz says “of course the parents are going to be reluctant to send their kids back to school, I understand that, but I think we need to give credit to the kids too. That they know it's a new world.