LAKE WYLIE, S.C. — The YMCA of Greater Charlotte says Camp Thunderbird, located on Lake Wylie, welcomed more than 3,500 kids to camp this summer without a single reported positive coronavirus case.
They say roughly 2,400 campers participated in the overnight camp, with another roughly 1,400 who participated in the day-camp.
This comes despite the data showing North Carolina and South Carolina both rank near the top when it comes to the number of children diagnosed with COVID-19.
According to numbers reported to the American Academy of Pediatrics, North Carolina has reported 21,117 cases among people 17 and under or 10.7% of total cases. In South Carolina, data shows 24,653 kids or 17.4% have tested positive.
So how did the camp keep all 3,500 campers safe?
“I’ve spent the last 10 years being the Executive Director of risk management for all of the branches of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, prior to that I also worked at the American Red Cross in health and safety and I actually worked at Disney World during 9/11,” said Kimberly Conroy, the camp’s Executive Director.
Conroy said she relied on her extensive background in risk management to help establish new safety protocols for reopening this summer.
“As we built those out, we knew it’s not possible to keep coronavirus out — we can’t promise that to anyone — all we can do is mitigate any potential spread once it gets here,” she said.
Conroy said she immediately partnered with Atrium Health, who ran the camp’s health center.
She said nurses were on site every day in addition to other medical professionals.
“Every day of the week for two hours a day we had a doctor or nurse practitioner who was on-site who could diagnose, prescribe medicine, just look at any campers who might be feeling ill,” she said.
Conroy said all staff and campers were all given temperature checks twice a day. She said all activities, including art, were entirely outside.
She said they also added extensive disinfection.
“We had to learn how to disinfect bows and arrows,” she laughed, adding they also limited the sharing of some equipment.
“We also issued lifejackets to campers, so typically campers share lifejackets, so we issued them to each camper or asked campers to bring their own lifejacket so we weren’t sharing as much equipment,” she said.
As for the overnight campers, Conroy said they were kept in pods.
“So if you were in Cabin 1, you didn’t interact with Cabin 3,” she said.
Of all the summers they’ve been open, Conroy said this summer by far the most important.
“So many kids said this is the best summer ever, and interestingly as much as I’d like to say this was the best summer ever, this wasn’t the best summer ever, it just felt like the best summer ever because this was their first interaction and engagement this was their first sense of normalcy," Conroy said. "You could see how much they needed this time together."
With their success over the summer, Camp Thunderbird is now also offering weekend overnight camps for kids, in addition to family overnight camps, where families can rent a cabin and stay together.