MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The June-like weather kicking off this week has many parents thinking about making plans for their kids this summer.

“A lot of people have discovered that outdoors is a safe space,” said Anthony Taylor, senior vice president of equity and outdoors for YMCA of the North.

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Just a like a first-time camper, the YMCA wasn’t sure what to expect when COVID-19 hit last year. They had to cut back on the number of camps and campers, but had no problem filling the spots they did have because demand was high.

“For us at the Y, what we have found is that families are looking for developmental opportunities for their youth,” said Taylor.

He said they’re already planning for one major change this summer.

“We are going to bring back overnight camps this year. That’s a big change this year,” said Taylor.

The Y will require a negative COVID test from campers who attend an overnight camp. They are also encouraging staff to get vaccinated, and they’ll implement other safety measures.

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“Campers will come in, organize as a pod with a particular leader, and then move through camp with that pod,” said Taylor.

For those not interested in overnight camps, the Y is also offering “Nature in the Neighborhood,” an outdoor experience in parks and destinations close to urban homes.

“Our goal is to offer programs that have access, opportunity and real engagement with communities of color,” said Taylor.

Whether it’s sports, sailing, horseback riding or rock climbing, Taylor believes the camps help kids develop both physically and mentally, especially after a year filled with unknowns.

“We believe nature, outdoor and adventure are solutions for that,” said Taylor.

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The YMCA says they have limited space for a number of summer camps. For more information on those and other camp programs, click here.

John Lauritsen