CHEPACHET — It was certainly a summer like no other as Mother of Hope Camp, the youth summer day camp for the Diocese of Providence began its 70th anniversary year — in a pandemic. The camp credits its following of strict guidelines to protect its campers and staff from the coronavirus in successfully providing a safe summer of fun for children.
Camp Director Michelle Ficocelli was happy to report that Mother of Hope’s team of dedicated staff and counselors were able to provide seven Covid-free weeks of summer camp to 150 campers this season.
“We were faced with so many challenges, starting with whether we could provide a safe summer camp experience during a global pandemic, and followed closely in wondering if families would register their children to attend our camp.”
After reviewing the procedures and protocols from Reopening Rhode Island, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and with the support of the diocesan Office of Catholic Youth Ministry, Ficocelli knew that not only could they adhere to the guidelines, but they could do so while still providing the fun summer that campers await each year.
“Despite the enormously daunting task before us, the effort put forth by the Mother of Hope team was a sight to behold,” Ficocelli said. “I was in awe at how seamlessly our staff and counselors adapted to the changes necessary to accomplish a successful camp season. The fact that our previous directors held the camp to such strict safety guidelines certainly helped ensure that our transition into the Covid protocols went smoothly.”
The camp’s 126 acres of land allowed for easy social distancing and hand sanitizing stations were set up to allow for regular disinfecting throughout the day. Ficocelli explained that it took a few days for the staff and campers to get used to new guidelines and protocols, but it quickly became second nature. In an otherwise stressful year, Mother of Hope Camp offered some form of normalcy for both parents and campers.
“Though there were no high-fives, hugs or contact sports, the spirit and mission of our camp remained the same — children appreciating and enjoying God’s creation.”
Nancy Willard’s twin girls, 10, attended their fourth summer at Mother of Hope and are already looking forward to next year.
“Camp was a lifesaver this summer,” said Willard. “After being home all spring, it definitely gave us some normalcy. It was good for both parents and kids. I could see a positive difference in all of us right after camp started. Things were a little different but the kids adapted easily. I think the staff did a fantastic job adapting to the requirements to keep campers and staff safe. They clearly communicated what they were doing and stuck with it all summer long.”
The campers’ love for camp and their friends was only more pronounced this year because they had been at home for so long, explained Ficocelli. Mother of Hope gave the children a much-needed break from technology in exchange for opportunities to swim and canoe, create art projects, go on hikes in the woods, fish and just enjoy the great outdoors.
Kara Batastini’s son Lucien, 7, spent most of his summer days at camp. Batastini admitted that she was a little nervous about sending him to camp, but once he started, she and her husband knew it was 100% the right decision.
“Lucien is an only child and we didn’t have much outside contact with other kids from March to June. The whole distance learning was difficult for him and for us. Normally, he is such an outgoing kid. Being stuck at home for those months was hard. We noticed a difference the first day when he came home from camp — like night and day and for the better. He was like his old self. Being around other kids and playing did a world of good. It was such a lifesaver for the whole family. We were so happy that we sent him.”
Ficocelli is grateful to parents who entrusted their children to Mother of Hope Camp this summer.
“It not only took trust, but a good dose of courage and hope, in the midst of this global pandemic. Their support of our camp and all the new policies and procedures was most appreciated,” she said.
She also thanked staff and counselors their hard work, dedication and flexibility this summer.
“Being a counselor during these times is downright daunting. Not only do you have to be upbeat, energetic, empathetic and engaging, but you have to do it while wearing a mask, dispensing hand sanitizer, keeping your distance and spraying everything with disinfectant when you are finished. Mother of Hope’s counselors rose to the occasion.”
As parents, faculty and administration all navigate the challenges of bringing students back to school in a safe way, Ficocelli feels that there are certainly some important lessons from camp that they can carry with them into the new academic year.
“If we take it one day at a time, wear our masks, wash our hands and just be kind to one another, we will certainly be ready to tackle anything. As Saint Paul wrote, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Yes we can!”
Mother of Hope is supported by the Catholic Charity Fund Appeal. As a 501(c)(3) agency, the camp works especially to help children of less fortunate families benefit from the many advantages of the Mother of Hope experience. If you are financially able, please consider making a donation online by visiting givecentral.org/2020CCA or by texting the word “Appeal” to 401-496-9889.