By Moshe Spern

These past few months have been completely unpredictable. Our professional and family lives have been tested in unprecedented ways. Schools, shuls, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other social gatherings that we were accustomed to pre-COVID-19 have completely shut down. As the remote school year comes to an end, summer is right around the corner. I know we are all anxious and hoping that our children will be able to get out of the house and transition into the usual summer camp scene! However, like most parents in our community, I honestly don’t know what the next few months will bring for our precious children.

Last week I read a passionate plea in the local newspaper for the existence of regular camp this summer. I completely agreed with the premise, but I still find myself contemplating what to do with my children for the upcoming summer. The social distancing guidelines in New York State have just been extended through June 13. At that point, the facilities under phase one will begin to open, and since schools are a part of phase four, this leads all of us to wonder about this upcoming summer. Based on this information, it seems to me that summer camps will be impacted. We just don’t know what that impact will be.

Summer camps are full of uncertainties. These questions include the topics of taking trips, daily activities, camp capacities, health restrictions, and guidelines, and monitoring the health of campers and staff members. Will campers and staff be required to wear masks, gloves, keep two feet apart, etc.? Lastly, will our children even be able to consistently adhere to the guidelines set while having the enjoyable summer experience we wish for them? We all just want our kids to be safe, healthy, and happy this summer more than ever before.

As a professional school leader/educator and current camp administrator, I started thinking a lot about what my own four children will do this summer. As a result, I have decided to open a virtual camp called “Camp Zoomer,” where campers will have a safe, fun, and social summer camp experience from home while also providing their parents peace of mind. “Camp Zoomer” will recreate the “normal” camp life experience through the Zoom platform this summer. Virtual camp activities will be in place from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

These activities will include, but are not limited to, music, baking, dance, gymnastics, Warren Levi karate, robotics, virtual concerts, virtual “escape the room,” game shows, virtual guest speakers and appearances, gym classes, and virtual field trips. Campers will also receive camp T-shirts, trophies, and other amazing prizes. Campers will have scheduled breaks throughout the day to lessen the amount of screen time. Each camper will be assigned to a bunk, and the morahs and counselors will be with them live each day for a fun, educational, and enriching experience. Camp Zoomer caters to children ages 4 through 12 (or entering eighth grade) who attend Orthodox Jewish day schools and yeshivas.

I am also committed to partnering with local businesses to deliver the best programming and services for our campers as we all work to regain stability during this crisis. We will partner with a local caterer to deliver home lunch each day that camp is in session. Camp lunches will consist of fresh and ready-made meals that require little to no preparation for parents. Camp tuition will vary based on whether or not lunch is included in your camp package.

Less than one week since we began to advertise and promote Camp Zoomer through our camp website, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp groups, the response has been extremely positive. Registration is open and parents are already committing to Camp Zoomer’s wonderful summer experience. We have also received many questions from interested parents, and I am including the most frequently asked questions below:

If online learning didn’t work for school then why would it work for camp? Schools and camps are different in the non-virtual world, and the same will hold true this summer. As an educator for 10 years, working virtually the last three months, I have evaluated and recognized the issues with remote/online learning this school year. Children are not as engaged as they would be if they were interacting in the same physical environment as their peers. Camp Zoomer will have an appropriate and qualified staff member in each bunk to ensure continuous social interactions between campers throughout the camp day. There are more than enough camp activities that will be offered regularly to feel like a new and exciting experience each day.

Will “Camp Zoomer” still be operating this summer if camps end up being allowed to open? I honestly daven that camps do open this summer. I do not want anyone to lose parnassah this summer and I understand that children need to have a camp experience as well. I hope that the world becomes safe enough for life to get back to normal, including summer camps. However, Camp Zoomer will operate regardless of what other camps decide, as we all just want our kids to be safe, healthy, and happy this summer more than ever before and I believe that giving parents a viable alternative is key. We will offer amazing programming throughout the summer. We can function and continue all summer long because of our amazing staff.

Why should I pay money for my child to sit on a screen all day? It is entirely the parent and child’s choice on how they want to spend their upcoming summer. Camp Zoomer is a safe and affordable alternative to a regular summer camp. Each day will be different and campers will be offered many engaging activity choices as a part of their schedule. I truly believe that most campers will choose to remain online throughout the camp day. The programs offered will be of high interest to children as I think about the interests of my own children and others in their age range. It is guaranteed that children will not be sitting in front of the screen all day as activities will be offered which incorporate significant amounts of physical movement for all types of campers.

What are you offering that a parent could not simply do with his or her own children this summer? Camp Zoomer is providing a service to parents who need their children to be in a safe social setting this summer. I know our program will provide parents with more of a relaxing summer and with many more options. We do have various options for signing up, so you aren’t locked into the whole summer if your child does not respond well to a virtual camp setting. Activities through Camp Zoomer will allow children to engage with other children in their age range for which they have existing friendships, but will also provide opportunities to establish new friendships that could last a lifetime.

Which gender and age campers will be offered the opportunity to attend Camp Zoomer? Camp Zoomer will cater to both boys and girls but in completely separate programs throughout the summer. Camp Zoomer caters to children ages 4 through 12 (or entering 8th grade).

What will the camp schedule look like? Session one will be held from June 25–July 21 and session two will be held from July 22–August 19. Our daily schedule will take place from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Do I have to pick up supplies every week? No. We will deliver everything your child needs to your home!

How much does Camp Zoomer cost? Our full summer package including lunch is $1,075 and not including lunch is $875. If you choose not to enroll for the full summer, we are also offering weekly, biweekly, and July and August session payment options. Please check out our website for additional information on pricing.

Is the camp fee refundable? Yes, if regular non-virtual camps are able to open prior to June 25, you will receive a full refund. After June 25, your refund will be prorated for each day your child attended Camp Zoomer.

Do you have a website and social media? Our website is CampZoomer.com and we are also on Facebook and Instagram.

We are davening that everyone is safe and healthy during this unprecedented time. If you have further questions or inquiries regarding Camp Zoomer, please email moshe@campzoomer.com. We look forward to a new and exciting virtual camp experience.

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