For over 150 years, The New York Foundling has worked in partnership with our neighbors to ensure that everyone can meet their full potential when facing challenging situations. This hasn’t changed, and our staff continue to provide life-changing and meaningful support in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This series shares how The Foundling’s many programs are responding to the needs of their community.
The New York Foundling launched Camp Felix in 2008 to provide children in foster care with the magical gift of attending an overnight summer camp filled with sports, games, swimming, making friends, and connecting with others who have experienced trauma and hardship, and know what it is like to be involved in the child welfare system. Campers stay active, nurture their creativity, and connect with nature.
Located an hour north of New York City, Camp Felix has come a long way since its first summer and is now open to children in all of The Foundling’s child welfare programs. Typically, children attend our overnight summer camp for 1 or 2 weeks and immerse themselves in activities that instill feelings of self-confidence, resilience, self-respect, and a strong sense of community. Our campers return home filled with confidence, newfound strength, and the belief that they can “achieve anything.”
COVID-19 has changed what Camp Felix will look like this summer. The group activities and communal settings that define the overnight camp experience would be difficult to adapt to current safety guidelines, and so The Foundling made the decision to cancel 2020’s traditional camp season. The health, wellbeing, and safety of our campers, their families, and Camp Felix staff is too important to risk. However, thanks to The Foundling’s dedicated and creative team, this summer, children and teenagers will experience the magic of Camp Felix at home!
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Foundling had hopes that in-person operation of Camp Felix in August would still be possible – but as things progressed and the world changed, team knew they had to begin planning a virtual program instead. “The kids need this camp,” says Jane Feyder-Siegel, the camp’s Program Director. “It was always our back-up plan to run it online if we couldn’t do it in-person.”
With the support of our partner The Felix Organization and generous funders, Camp Felix At Home will deliver high-quality, interactive camp-themed programming supervised by veteran Camp Felix staff members throughout the month of August. The virtual camp experience will feature 2-3 hours of daily activities, including fitness, yoga, arts and crafts, theatre and dance, STEM workshops, musical performances, and more. Virtual campers can participate in the entire program start to finish, or they can choose select weeks, days, or activities based on their interests.
“When we told kids and caretakers that we were still going to run Camp Felix, it was a great relief to them,” Jane continues “Children and families look forward to camp all year long. It’s a real get-away for them and an opportunity for them to be carefree kids.”
At first, planning a virtual camp was daunting. “But we put our heads together, got creative, and we’re really excited about what we’ve come up with.”
While some activities like swimming, rock climbing, and basketball can’t be adapted to an online platform, many other camp favorites will return. Each day will still start with the Morning Circle where campers and staff sing songs and talk about daily and weekly goals and challenges. “We can’t give out a Cleanest Cabin Award this year, so instead campers will be competing within their own homes to see who can complete the most household chores—things like dusting, vacuuming, doing the dishes, or helping their parent/guardian with dinner.”
A week before Camp Felix At Home begins, campers will receive a care package, including a t-shirt, journal, set of headphones, snacks, coloring and activity books and supplies, arts and crafts supplies, and a frisbee.
The camp’s programming will allow campers to pursue a variety of interests. STEM workshops provided by Engineering for Kids will enable campers to explore cyber robotics, parachutes, and candy catapults. Musical theater workshops, led by Broadway Bound Kids and based around routines from Hamilton and The Lion King, will teach campers to project their voices and develop their stage presence. Acting workshops from Boston Casting will offer improv and stand-up comedy instruction.
“There will be a lot of trial and error with Camp Felix At Home, but the kids are excited and open-minded; and families love that we are still finding a way to come together and do something special,” Jane says. “Parents and foster parents want their kids to spend the summer doing fun, productive activities, and exploring new passions and hobbies, albeit remotely.”
To learn more about how The New York Foundling is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, visit our emergency response page. Stay tuned for more stories from the frontlines as we continue to support our neighbors on paths to stability and strength.
Read past posts in the ‘Our Work Continues’ blog series:
- Keeping Students in Foster Care on Track for Educational Success
- Rehabilitating Youth and Families with Alternatives to Incarceration
- Closing the Achievement Gap for Youth in Foster Care
- Community Services Keep Staten Island Families Connected
- Perseverance and Compassion in our Homes for Adults with Developmental Disabilities (Part 2)
- Perseverance and Compassion in our Homes for Adults with Developmental Disabilities (Part 1)
- School Based Mental Health Services still Mitigating Crises
- Bringing Day Habilitation into the Homes of People with Developmental Disabilities
- Foster Care Systems Supporting Families Despite Social Distancing Challenges
- Supporting Youth as they Age out of Foster Care
- Preventing Child Abuse for Families in Social Isolation
- Mobilizing a School to Support a Community