Nadia Clendon loves camping so much that even when she’s at home, she only answers “Potamus,” the name of her summer camp.
“We’re doing Sandy Beach Park for Potamas,” said the 15-year-old. “And we’re gardening for Potamas.”
Nadia is autistic.
Her mother, Yana El Guevari, spoke of Nadia’s experience each summer. – meet friends and participate in activities – She talks about things that mean so much to her for months even though she only attends for a few weeks.
However, Nadia was at her home in Calgary during the Global News coverage. She had her camp canceled because her air quality was so bad.
“It took a lot of time for Nadia to understand the fact that today is not a camp day,” said El Guevari.
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Camp officials in Ontario and Alberta told Global News that the focus is on preserving core camp experiences, such as making friendships on canoe trips and sitting next to a campfire. However, to keep children comfortable and safe, those activities may be different.
“We sent N-95 masks on many of our long trips, especially in Algonquin Provincial Park, plus in case we encountered wildfire smoke,” said Andrea Lewis.
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She is a registered nurse and health coordinator at Camp Kawarsa, a summer camp about 170 kilometers east of Toronto.
She also said that Camp Kawarsa’s cabins are now all air-conditioned, which will keep campers out of the sun from about noon to about 2:30 p.m.
And staff are now planning to give campers more opportunities to jump into the lake, he said from Toronto.
Lewis said this summer’s weather has put a renewed focus on children’s health, with fatigue, thirst, irregular breathing and headaches requiring attention.
Children “absorb more heat from the environment and generate more heat during exercise,” Lewis said, adding that they sweat less than adults.
Dave Newnham, president of the Ontario Camp Association, which certifies camps in Ontario, said adapting means camps can continue to focus on providing traditional activities, even if they look a little different.
“If you can’t have a campfire, people are really creative,” Hamilton said.
“[Counselors and campers]are pretending to be a fire with cardboard painted red and orange, and they are sitting around that huge fire and still singing,” he said.
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Newnham, who is also vice president of camps and outdoor education for the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario, said this extends to flexibility in how camps schedule water regattas, for example, which will likely no longer take place during the day.
“Whether it’s El Niño, climate change, or forest fire conditions, the environmental conditions in which we operate our camps will continue to change. It won’t be like 20 years ago. And we’re going to need to continue these kinds of conversations about how we’re going to adapt,” he said.
Aurora Anderson, a member of the Alberta Camp Association board of directors, said plans will likely include more indoor and air-conditioned activities, more funding for buses to and from those locations, and the addition of sports to cool down participants.
“They have cooling towels and they play with water a lot….We also have water guns so we can play with water,” said a Calgary man.
El Gebari emphasized how important the camp is to his two children.
Her 15-year-old son, Jalen Clendon (camp name ‘Iced Tea’), has attended the same camp as Nadia for 10 years and now volunteers there.
“It definitely helped me understand Nadia and people with similar disabilities,” he said.
“Can we stop sending them to camps?” said El Guebarri.
“No, because it’s so great.”
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