After being halted or reduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacksonville-sponsored summer camps are returning to normal operations.
The city currently sponsors summer camps at 97 different locations through its Kids Hope Alliance program. Over 6,700 children are expected to participate in camps sponsored by KHA this summer.
Carpenter’s Shop Center, one of the organizations sponsored by KHA, is a Christian childcare center that runs after school and summer camp programs, said its CEO Cheryl Wilder. They restarted their camp program last week, which will run till the end of July.
The organization held aftercare programs this year at reduced capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but was able to return to full capacity last month.
To honor the reopening of camps, Mayor Lenny Curry met with Carpenter's Shop’s 160 campers Tuesday.
Curry toured the camp’s facility during his visit. In the first room, he exercised with toddlers to a Black Panther-themed workout tape. He squatted and clawed the air along with about 20 waist-high children.
Older children were playing musical chairs in another room, but stopped and were in awe when the mayor walked in.
“You’re the mayor? No way!” said one camper over excited noises from his fellow campers.
After touring the two-building facility, camp counselors brought the campers to their indoor meeting area to take pictures with the mayor. Before they returned to camp, Curry thanked the children for their strength dealing with the uncertainty and isolation the COVID-19 pandemic caused over the past year.
“You guys have been through a lot, but you guys have proven and demonstrated that you’re tough, and you're resilient, and we take care of each other, right?” he said.
“Yes sir!” responded several of the children.
When the mayor left, the children lined up outside to get snow cones, ready to return to a normal day at camp.