MacKenzie Camp, on Mabel Lake, has cancelled its overnight camping due to COVID-19, but is transitioning online. This is the first summer in its 75 years it won’t be hosting youth from the North Okanagan and Shuswap. (Photo contributed)

North Okanagan summer camp moves online amid COVID-19

For first season in 75 years, long-standing camp in North Okanagan pulls plug

For the first time in 75 years, there will be no overnight camping at MacKenzie Camp’s Mabel Lake site.

The Board of MacKenzie Camp made the tough decision to cancel the camping season May 13.

“We are all disappointed,” camp director Lana O’Brien said. “Our camp, tucked away on Mabel Lake near Kingfisher is such a magical place. We desperately wanted to welcome area youth there again, but we simply can’t move forward at this time.”

Instead, MacKenzie Camp is going online.

“Shifting to an online format is the responsible thing to do given the province’s current COVID-19 situation,” O’Brien said.

MacKenzie Camp is developing a web version to bring camp to the kids through Zoom, while a collection of activities and challenges are being built to challenge and support youth in the North Okanagan.

“Camp is such an important part of so many kids’ summers,” O’Brien said. “So, we are working hard to find ways to replace at least some of that experience for them.”

The camp is even looking to maintain some of its themed camps, such as science or arts camp.

“Another possibility that we are considering is to do a few in-person gatherings in church parking lots or other outdoor venues, so that ‘campers’ can get to know each other and their counsellors a bit better,” O’Brien said.

Moving a summer camp online doesn’t come without its obstacles.

“Online camp is brand new to us, so we are jumping into the programming side of things already,” O’Brien said. “I and three counsellors returning from last year have been hard at work putting a plan together. It’s exciting to see all the resources that are available as camps across the country and beyond respond to this COVID-19 health emergency challenge.”

Funding is another obstacle.

Weekly camps will be reduced to $15 for the online version. The fee is only enough to cover the registration costs, all other costs associated will have to be covered through other means.

MacKenzie Camp has long counted on the support of dedicated corps of volunteers and patrons and the camp association treasurer and long-time camp booster, Lorraine Powell, is hopeful that support will continue and perhaps even expand this summer.

“Every year, our supporters give generously so that kids who can’t afford it can attend camp,” she said. “We anticipate that this will happen again this season. We are also hoping that individuals and businesses in the North Okanagan and Shuswap will consider helping out.”

Every week, registered campers will receive a MacKenzie Camp care package filled will craft supplies and other materials needed for projects and activities and the camp is accepting any cash or in-kind donations from local individuals or businesses for the programming materials.

Charity donation tax receipts will be provided for supporters as the camp is a registered charity.

For more information regarding registration or donations, contact maccamp@shaw.ca or call 250-838-6293.

READ MORE: GALLERY: Vernon pair raise their glass and funds for SPCA

READ MORE: Okanagan farm continues to offer natural, safe space during pandemic


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