New camp for kids with special needs

Activities will include dance, arts, baking, music, sports, STEM and outdoor water games

New camp for kids with special needs

Photo credit: Getty Images

A new summer camp called the Y City Camp will be run out of the YM-YWHA this year, a re-branding of a former camp called Friendly Faces. It will include programming and services geared towards campers with disabilities and special needs.

The camp will offer a range of activities, including dance, arts, baking, music, sports, STEM and outdoor water games. There will be special events each week, including Tuesday competition days, Wednesday theme days, and Thursday fun days, when traditional field trip activities like laser tag or rock climbing will be brought to the camp.

“We’re just trying to create really exciting, engaging programming for the campers,” Director David Wallach said. He adds that there will be a Jewish aspect to the camp, but that it will be an inclusive environment regardless of religious background.

Campers will do activities in groups of 8-10 with two counsellors to every bubble. Each bubble will have its own large room in the Y building on Westbury Ave., plus access to an auditorium. Outdoor programming will take place at Mackenzie-King Park across the street.

COVID-19 safety precautions will include a daily morning survey for campers and counsellors, mask-wearing (the camp will follow governmental guidelines to determine the age cutoff for masks), and social distancing. “What we’re trying to do is create the most normal camp experience in spite of COVID,” Wallach said.

Deanna Little, director of Inclusion Services at the Y, said that accessibility is a major component of the new camp. A number of spots will be reserved specifically for campers with disabilities and all staff will receive inclusion training. Campers registered for the inclusion services will be paired with a shadow or special needs counsellor (a ratio of one counsellor to three campers will be determined based on the camper’s needs).

“The inclusion services team is also working closely with families to better understand their individual needs, best practices and strategies,” Little said. Accommodations will include a sensory break room and activities modified to suit different levels of ability. “We are working hard to create something special that everyone will enjoy.”

The camp is also offering a program called Small Steps, an occupational speech and therapy camp program for children between the ages of 6 to 12. It will run from July 5 to August 13.

Y City Camp will run from June 28 to Aug. 20, 2021 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Extended care is available in the morning at 8 a.m. and in the afternoon until 5:30 p.m. Sessions cost $215 per week, with subsidies available to those in need. The camp is open to children finishing kindergarten through Grade 6.