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Safety Above All: Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Just a few short months into 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic flipped the world upside down. In-person gatherings—whether work or personal—halted overnight. In-person camp programming shut down, too. But SeriousFun Children’s Network recognized that in a time of increased uncertainty, health risk, and isolation, our mission would be more critical than ever.

In fact, because of the pandemic, much of the external support that children living with serious medical conditions and their families could count on fell away. In many cases, in-person physical therapy and mental health support ceased, hospital visitation was prohibited, and the caregiving support that so many relied on collapsed overnight. So, staff across SeriousFun Children’s Network did what has always been central to the spirit of SeriousFun and our founder Paul Newman: we innovated.

North Star Reach, the SeriousFun camp in Michigan, held their first-ever Family Care Conference—bringing together camp experts and medical professionals virtually to offer support and community to caregivers of children living with serious health challenges.

Barretstown, the SeriousFun camp in Ireland, and The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the SeriousFun camp in Connecticut, leveraged Facebook Live, providing free, accessible programming from story time and craft tutorials to interactive games and guided meditations. 

And all across the Network, camp and program staff delivered camp kits—full of activity supplies, surprise games, camp t-shirts, and beloved snacks—delighting families with everything they might need to recreate the magic of camp safely at home.

And because the serious and the fun go hand-in-hand, in Haiti, India, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, camp staff gave out emergency relief kits to camper families complete with non-perishable food and hygiene essentials. In these countries and in many others, at-home camp programs reached new children who might not otherwise have been able to participate in traditional camp sessions.

“2020 was an exceptionally challenging year for all SeriousFun camps and programs. The COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary public health measures disrupted our ability to deliver the traditional camps and programs campers and families count on. However, thanks to the dedication, commitment, collaboration, and support shown across the Network, camps shared new and innovative ways to continue to serve thousands of campers around the world.”

– Dee Ahearn, CEO, Barretstown

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