By Paul Burton

BOSTON (CBS) — Empty playgrounds and courts are just another stark reminder of the devastating impact the coronavirus is having on summer camps for kids.

Sharon McNally is president of Camp Harborview in Boston Harbor. They already had more than 600 Boston children registered for the summer before the pandemic hit. Now they plan to pivot and serve the kids and families in a different way.

“It’s clear we will not have camp. We will not be going out on the island. We are going to put a package together for each household with toys, games, summer reading materials and household goods, and of course food in the form of grocery cards,” McNally said.

Lereca Rodriguez, of Roxbury, has been a camper at Camp Harborview for six years. She said the experience changed her life and she can’t imagine not returning to the island she loves.

“They’ve been there through everything since I was a camper,” she said. “They helped me through the whole process of applying to college and provided me with a great summer job and a great opportunity.”

Other camp programs are still trying to figure out what to do. Concord Recreation said they are still taking applications, but are waiting on final guidelines from the state and local boards of health to see what safety measures must be in place, including testing sites and smaller groups of kids.

“We don’t know if it will work or not,” Concord Director of Recreation Ryan Kane said. “Summer camp is going to look different no matter what…The distancing will be like breaking into pods of summer groups.”

For so many children, summer camps are a way for kids to get out of the city, experience the fresh air and bond with one another. But social distancing and wearing face masks makes it very challenging.

“Social distancing rules are so stringent and important, you can’t do the things you would do at camp. If you can’t be within 6 feet of one another then you can’t touch or play sports or swim,” McNally said.

Lereca is graduating this year and will then be on her way to Temple University. She credits her family and thanks Camp Harborview for years of mentoring and unforgettable experiences that will be greatly missed this summer.

“The summer is a way for campers to get away from all that violence and be away from everything,” she said.

Summer camps that cannot open this year will be greatly missed.

Paul Burton

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