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COVID-19 is canceling summer camps, and families are upset

Parents around the country are sad to see their children missing out on camps and other childhood rituals.
/ Source: TODAY

With the majority of schools closed for the rest of the year and extracurricular activities halted early, many parents are spending a significant amount of time helping their children adjust to the "new normal" of life during the coronavirus pandemic.

For many parents, one of those last hopes of normalcy was summer camp. However, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the United States, camps around the country are being canceled, upsetting parents and children alike.

"The kids are devastated," said Sara Zober, who said that her two older children typically attend summer camps and her youngest daughter was planning to attend her first full summer session at a sleep away camp in Ohio. "They will skip a full year of seeing their friends in person."

Zober, who is a rabbi, said the camp is one of her children's "favorite Jewish experiences."

"There's a lot of sadness that they have to wait another year," she said.

Jacinda Townsend Gides, a mother of two, said that her daughters attend music and arts-themed sleep away camps.

"It's bad on a number of levels, but for me, I think the most hurtful level is that summer is a time when a lot of kids can sort of back away from academics and explore what they're truly interested in and what they truly love to do," said Gides.

Her oldest daughter, a high school student who only has one summer left before going away to college, was planning on using the experience as a resume-booster for school applications.

"It's really disappointing," Gides said. "It really impacts her ... I'm kind of scrambling a little bit to figure out how we can maximize this in a way that will look decent on a college application."

Keith Strudler, a father of two, said his ten- and twelve-year-old sons were planning to attend a sleep away camp in the Poconos. For his younger son, it was his first time sleeping away. He said his kids took the news of the cancellation well.

"We've been pretty open with them," said Strudler. "I think they kind of understood that it was a very realistic thing to happen. It was sad. I think my oldest in particular is sad, because he knows what camp's like and it was a chance to reconnect with all of his friends. He's upset."

Other parents took to social media to share their feelings about camp cancellations and the effect that the situation is having on their families.

Many parents worry about how they will entertain their children with summer plans interrupted.

"We're thinking of running some religious school programming through the summer, but a lot will depend on what the restrictions are for social distancing," said Zober.

"I don't know what our kids will do all summer," said Gides. "I'm afraid they'll just be on SnapChat. It's a little horrifying ... Maybe this is lucky, but I just got a big garden plot and I'm a beginning gardener and my girls are going to help me. That may be what we do all summer."

Strudler said that while he and his family have a pool they're planning to open and are looking at potential day camp activities to engage the kids in, it's been hard on him to see his sons lose out on the summer ritual.

"I think we as parents were more upset, even than they were, just because we feel like this was something we like to be able to give to them, this experience, and having that taken away feels like we're not fulfilling our responsibilities, like we're letting our kids down," he said. "I was much more comfortable with doing school at home and losing other things than losing this thing. It brings them so much happiness...It's like they're losing a part of their childhood."