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CoronavirusKidsNewsThe SouthSider

Website helps families choose the perfect virtual or in-person summer camp

ST. LOUIS – For the second summer of COVID-19, families are looking for some kind of camp – safe, whether virtual or in person – for their children. But a website with a long list of resources can help parents find the perfect camps.

The website Blueprint4SummerSTL at https://blueprint4.com/stl/ has a list of more than 4,000 camps in the St. Louis area, along with a questionnaire that narrows the choices down to the best ones for individual children.  

“We make it really easy for parents and families to find information about summer camp,” said Zasmine Johnson, program director for the Blueprint4SummerSTL platform. Parents can narrow down their choices by such categories as arts, drama and sports, whether the camp offers before and aftercare, how far it is from the family’s home, the day range and whether scholarships are offered.

“If parents want the most up-to-date information, they can just click through to the camp providers’ website,” Johnson said. “If they have a very specific COVID-19 question, then the best thing to do would be to reach out to the camp.”

Among the website’s other resources, it also can help connect children from underserved groups and neighborhoods with tens of thousands of dollars in camp scholarships. 

“A lot of the programs that are listed on our site offer scholarships,” Johnson explained.

Now in its seventh year, the organization was started in 2015 by Maxine Clark, CEO of the Clark-Fox Family Foundation and founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop.  

People really want summer camps, according to a survey done by the organization. Eighty-two percent of families who responded to a survey said they planned to send their children to an in-person camp this summer. Sixty-five percent of those who responded said they would consider only an in-person camp.

Safety was the top concern among those who wanted an in-person camp. They wanted staff and campers to wear masks and everyone to observe public health guidelines. They also wanted plenty of hand-washing and use of sanitizer. 

Among those who are open to virtual camps, 94 percent say they can safely pick up materials, but 73 percent prefer that the materials be dropped off at their homes. Those families want shorter durations of one to four hours, rather than all day.

After the safety, families said they wanted their children to have fun, with lots of social interactions, and to be physically active. 

As in the past, the arts and STEM programs were favorites. But sports and nature were increasingly popular among those who wanted an in-person camp.

Blueprint4SummerSTL also is sponsoring the Bi-State Virtual Camp Fair to help answer questions about camps that children don’t actually attend in person. One Zoom event was held March 27; it will be offered again from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 10. For information and how to register, go to blueprint4.com › 2021-bi-state-virtual-camp-fair.

The public health requirements of COVID-19 have cut back the number of slots available in camps, Johnson said. As a result, she warned, “I believe summer camps will be packed to capacity.”

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in St. Louis, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of four books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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