For 23-year-old Alex Mertens, coming to Camp Horizon means being able to do everything other kids do at camp.
Mertens, who has cerebral palsy, has been enjoying camp near Bragg Creek, Alta., since she was 15.
“Going to camp gives me a certain independence,” she said.
“It’s the best week of my life when I come here.”
Summer camp is back in Alberta but with some hesitation
Mertens will return to camp in July. This spring, the children’s music camp sound at Camp Horizon started up again after being silenced for two years. It’s been great for the teenage musicians and for Easter Seals Alberta, who run the camp.
The organization relies on facility rental revenue which has nearly dried up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was really difficult for us. We have had to cancel virtually all of our 2020 reservations,” said Katherine Such, CEO of Alberta Easter Seals.
This summer, Camp Horizon will operate at 75% capacity.
Tel said it’s because finding staff has been difficult and they still want to keep people away as much as possible.
“The safety of our campers is our No. 1 priority, so we make sure that when relaunching, we do it safely – that we have all the supports in place that they need to ensure that they have the safest summer possible while still getting the unique experience they always do from Camp Horizon,” Such said.
She said when registrations opened in early March, they filled up within a day.
“We already have a waiting list of over 40 people,” Such said.
The Alberta Camping Association said it was a mixed bag when it came to filling camps, with demand higher for day camps.
“That’s probably where we’re seeing the biggest change,” said Kathleen Gurski, vice president of the Alberta Camping Association. “The filling of the day camp is quite fast and that of the night camp is a little slower.
“I think with day camps there’s less anxiety because it’s more like kids in school. For parents sending their children to day camp, this seems like common sense and not really a big risk to take. However, sending them to an overnight camp might be a greater perceived risk.
This year, Camp Horizon is requiring all staff and campers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Future of Alberta summer camps up in the air as operators and families await news from the province
With revenue declining and costs rising, Easter Seals Alberta said it needed to raise more than half a million dollars to help subsidize the cost of the camp. Each camper who comes to Camp Horizon is subsidized at 50%.
If people want to donate, they can click here.
Camp officials said running camps at reduced capacity will increase the overall “cost per camper” because camp overhead remains static. They have also adjusted their staffing model to reduce cross-cohorts, which further impacts costs.
Easter Seals Alberta’s Camp Horizon offers people with disabilities and health issues outdoor camp experiences.
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