HELENA — The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been the easiest time for families.
Parents are having to balance a shifting, uncertain childcare situation while still working their jobs, and socialization for kids has become a difficult task.
Summer camps often provide some relief, but due to COVID-19 many summer camps have canceled in-person events this year.
The camps that are running in-person, like ExporationWorks in Helena, have been described as a blessing by attending families.
“I think it’s just awesome,” said Zoe McGowan with her daughter Clancy. “I mean it’s been really great for her to get to learn this summer, and engage and do things she hasn’t been able to do since staying at home.”
ExplorationWorks is offering 72 camps during the summer month this year to more than 600 day campers.
However, there’s no denying the camps are certainly different than previous years.
There are separate pick-up and drop-off locations for each camp to limit any unnecessary exposure.
Temperatures are taken each day, and parents will receive a full refund if their child has to stay home due to illness.
“Kids are wearing masks as well, which is important,” said Executive Director Kelly Posewitz. “We have a clorox electrostatic sprayer we’re using at the end of the night to disinfect, and that will kill any virus.”
The cost of cleaning and following COVID-19 guidelines isn’t cheap. An industrial quality electrostatic sprayer can cost thousands of dollars.
Posewitz says the education museum was only able to offer summer camps thanks to a $10,000 Social Services Nonprofit Grant and a $5,000 Business Adaptability grant from the State’s COVID Relief Fund.
“They’re keeping us open and things going,” said Posewitz.
The primary sources of income for the nonprofit are memberships, donations, summer camps and general ticket sales.
However, ExpirationWorks has been closed to the general public since March due to the pandemic and has taken a significant hit to their revenue.
The last few months have been a difficult time for ExplorationWorks and summer camps have been a much needed shining beacon for the museum.
“As a parent and as a director it’s huge to be able to provide this to parents and kids,” said Posewitz. “Just to have the building full of kid’s laughter again has kind of renewed all of us here, and got us thinking about our mission more closely and the importance of it.”
Sitting in on the summer camps at ExplorationWorks it’s easy to see why the staff were so dedicated to pulling them off this year.
Kids, as they tend to do, have adapted to the situation swimmingly.
They don’t care if they have to wear a facemask or wash their hands more. They’re still just as fascinated by new discoveries, and laugh just as hard by being with other kids.
“If summer camps weren’t happening I wouldn’t really be able to see new kids, just my best friend [Ida] across the street everyday,” said Summer Camper Olivia Szudera. “It’s really fun being able to come here. I get to make new friends.”
More information about the programs offered ExplorationWorks, and how to support their mission can be found here.