Like many children this Spring, seven-year-old Wyatt McDonald was quarantined, learning remotely, and spent a month at home with no outside contact from family or friends. Like many parents and caregivers, Susan McDonald worked from home full-time while trying to help her son adjust to a new academic routine.

The McDonalds are a typical family in an atypical time. As quarantine weeks ticked by, Wyatt lost interest in remote learning and was no longer willing to read, do schoolwork, or be active. “With no other friends or family members to keep him entertained, Wyatt had nothing to look forward to each day and had fallen flat,” said Susan McDonald.

Children have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. In millions of households, they are experiencing an incredible amount of stress. They’ve lost the stability and safety of schools and daycares, and many of their social connections with friends and teachers. Parents and other caregivers are stressed, too. Juggling jobs or unemployment with no break from caregiving duties, and worried about the long-term impact the pandemic will have on their children’s health and development.

After months of the same routine, the McDonald’s finally found something to look forward to as an outlet for Wyatt to be outdoors, active, and socializing. The Torigian YMCA announced its Camp Eastman program would begin in June. “Discovering that camp was opening was the most joyous moment of our Spring,” said Susan. “We have the experience of a real outdoor summer camp without having to bus him halfway across the state. It’s nice to know he’s in the next town over and that he’s safe at the Y.”

Camp is more than just a childcare option for many parents. For the 700 families attending YMCA of Metro North camps, it is a chance for their children to grow and develop through the experience of making friends and learning new skills. Summer camp counselors at the Y worked throughout the Spring to purchase equipment and develop safety procedures so kids could have a good experience during the Summer.

“We were planning on how to open our camps for months,” said DJ Fimiani, Director of Sports and Enrichment at the Torigian YMCA. “Policies and protocols were constantly shifting, and camp certainly looked a lot different than in years past. In the end, I think we worked out a great program for campers so they could have some fun and get outdoors.”

Camp Eastman was a much-needed reprieve for both Susan and Wyatt before the September start of school, with many school districts opting for more hybrid and remote learning models. The Torigian YMCA will also provide all-day care for students with enhanced academic supports for students learning remotely.

Since starting camp at the end of June, Susan has noticed a monumental change in Wyatt. “He is definitely happier. I’ve noticed a personality shift. He’s excited about different things, and he has something to look forward to again. He has hope,” said Susan.

Outdoor activities were not the only thing that lifted Wyatt’s spirts. By his own account, he has made lots of friends. He also challenged himself to learn new skills. “Wyatt is a self-taught swimmer who would barely even go in the water at the beginning of the summer,” said Susan. “After a few weeks of watching his friends swim in the deep end, Wyatt practiced, took the test, and passed. He was so proud of himself for that accomplishment.”

YMCA Summer Campers Had the Best Summer Ever in 2020!

The YMCA of Metro North hosts Camp Eastman at the Torigian YMCA in Peabody, Camp Melstone at the Melrose YMCA, and Camp Sachem and Gymnastics Camp at the Saugus YMCA Campus.

Explore Summer Camp at the Y