Summer Day Camps Open, Parents Breathe Collective Sigh of Relief

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For all New York City parents going crazy from their children, some relief is in order, thanks to the announcement courtesy of Governor Cuomo that allow day camps to open on June 29.

Sen. Simcha Felder

The pushback against the forced closings came from local leaders across the city, including State Senator Simcha Felder (D-Midwood, Flatbush, Borough Park, Kensington, Sunset Park, Madison-Marine, Bensonhurst), who was contacted by the grassroots campaign “Give kids Summer” to amplify their voices. 

Felder admitted this announcement to be a good first step, but warned that celebrations should be held until all further details are reviewed and confirmed feasible by camp directors. 

At this point, I remain cautiously optimistic that we will find a way to offer children and their parents a safe social environment where kids can be kids. Education in every form is essential. That’s why I won’t stop fighting for camps and schools and special education programs to open safely in Phase 1,” said Felder. 

Shmuel Khon LMSW, 38, camp director of Chaverim Boyz in Woodridge, New York and organizer of the “Give Kids Summer” campaign told KCP that camp directors across the city are working hard on making camps COVID-19 safe.

We anticipate having smaller bunk sizes, limiting the mingling between groups, and limiting trips. It’s all part of the picture,” Kohn said. 

But for Khon, a man who has worked with children in many capacities including as a middle school principal in Boro Park and now currently as a licensed therapist working at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS), the idea of kids not having a place to let off steam was detrimental to their health.

“It comes down to what we deem essential, right? I’ve spoken to parents who never knew their children would deal with these types of things. Insomnia, anxiety…” said Khon. 

The campaign began in solitude but quickly grew to include dozens of camps and support from parents with almost 6,000 signatures on the signed Give Kids Summer: A PleaTo Open Day Camps petition. 

Some of the camps on the list that joined include Chaim Day Camp in Brooklyn, Camps Bizzy Bee and Chevra in Monsey, Camp MaTov, Machane Hakayitz and Shirah in Long Island.

Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein
Assembly Member Simcha Eichenstein

Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein (D-Borough Park)rejoiced upon hearing the announcement after spending weeks negotiating with Cuomo’s senior staff and the NYS Health Department regarding the proper protocols for the upcoming camp season.

“I’m delighted that Governor Cuomo recognizes the tremendous significance of this decision for so many New Yorkers,” said Eichenstein, “Summer camp provides an outlet for children and a much-needed break for their parents. Our young people have experienced both the trauma and the boredom of all these weeks of lockdown. They deserve to enjoy a safe summer filled with fun.”  

The state has yet to release its safety guidelines for summer camps, but they have been preparing a series of steps to keep the children and staff safe which will most likely include guidelines of which they are familiar. 

With everything going on, Eichenstein pointed out that he was really grateful to Cuomo for working with him on this. 

“This decision illustrates that when we all work together for the common good, we can develop innovative and practical solutions to the many challenges that we face during this crisis. As we continue to work on the specific guidance, this is wonderful news and I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor’s staff to address the possibilities of opening sleepaway camps as well,” he said. 

The decision on sleepaway camps hasn’t been announced as of late, but according to Cuomo, it should be coming soon. 

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