When COVID-19 forced schools to halt in-person classes in mid-March, youngsters in turn were forced to spend an inordinate amount of time at home.
Then came Camp St. Clair.
“Almost every single day,” camp director Amanda Sekanic said, “we have a parent at drop-off or pickup who says, ‘Thank you so much for all you’re doing.’”
For seven weeks, wrapping up Aug. 7, the program at Boyce Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair is providing youngsters with opportunities to participate in a variety of educational, artistic and athletic activities, much to the relief of everyone who endured the most difficult stretches of coronavirus-related restrictions.
“They hadn’t seen each other since school shut down, so they’re just so excited to see their friends again,” Sekanic said about the campers, who have completed first through seventh grades. “They didn’t think they were going to see their friends this summer.”
Camp is offered through Upper St. Clair Recreation and Leisure Services, for which Sekanic serves as assistant community programs coordinator. She said the decision to proceed for 2020 came in late May, with a change in location from the usual Baker Elementary School.
“We have all of this space to be able to do it safely,” Sekanic said, with the expanse of Boyce Mayview Park featuring plenty of pavilions and athletic fields – that includes Sean Casey’s Miracle League of the South Hills facility – plus an outdoor Learning Lab and a system of trails by which campers can explore nature.
Along with Upper St. Clair students, attending the program are youngsters from other nearby communities.
“They’re all fitting in and making new friends, and it’s really setting the stage for growth,” Sekanic said. “Now that we have established ourselves in the park, it will be here every summer. We’re definitely excited to see what we can do whenever we’ve emerged safely on the other side of this.”
Joining her in making sure everything goes smoothly are 18 counselors.
“As far as staffing, I use counselors who had been at camp before,” she said. “So parents were familiar with faces. They knew that their kids were coming to a safe place with recognizable people.”
To promote safety, the number of participants has been limited. Staff members wear masks, and water bottles are readily available to keep everyone hydrated.
“On days when it’s super-hot, we usually play some water games,” Sekanic said, and that helps compensate for this summer’s abnormal weather, especially for Pittsburgh. “We’ve only had two days where it’s actually rained, two days out of the past five weeks.”
Such conditions are amenable to people visiting Boyce Mayview Park. Many take note of Camp St. Clair, and Sekanic said they have a message for her and her counselors.
“We are so glad that you are providing something for kids,” she said.
For more information about Upper St. Clair Recreation and Leisure Services, visit www.twpusc.org/rec-leisure/rec-leisure-home.