ELMER, N.J. — For 13-year-old Piper Warner, home is with her family and then, there’s summer camp.
“It's almost like your second home,” she said.
That second home is at Appel Farm Arts Camp, a charter school that turns into an overnight-stay arts camp in the summer.
Last summer, though, during what would’ve been the camp’s 60th year, COVID-19 restrictions made it impossible to open.
“It was hard because summer camp is part of who she is,” said Piper’s mother, Nicole Warner.
Piper agreed that the closure was tough to deal with.
“I was pretty disappointed,” she said.
However, this year is shaping up to be different.
“We just got a green light,” said Cori Solomon, the camp’s executive director.
Solomon said while New Jersey’s governor gave summer camps the go-ahead, Appel Farms will only be operating at 50% capacity.
“We've had a planning committee happening since last summer to figure out what do we need to do to ensure children could safely come here for our overnight camp experience,” Solomon said.
According to the American Camp Association, across the country, only a handful of states so far are not allowing overnight summer camps this year: Illinois, Missouri, Oregon and Washington.
In several other states, it’s left up to each individual county to decide: Arizona, California, Florida and Wisconsin.
Where summer camps are happening, demand appears to be strong.
“Our phone is ringing off the hook right now,” Solomon said.
That excitement is felt by children.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Wow, this is great!’ I'm so excited for this,” Piper said.
However, parents are also looking forward to it.
“I was like, ‘Oh summer camp. Yes, yes, you're going, like, click, click, click, click, click – send!” Nicole Warner said.
Cori Solomon said, as a parent herself, she understands.
“Parents are all over the place right now, but there is clearly a consensus that parents are worried about their children,” she said. “You know, they've been isolated for now almost a year and they need this.”
For the Warner family, it also offers a chance to return to something familiar.
“My husband had been diagnosed with colon cancer last year. So, on top of him being sick, she just lost this and this was what she looked forward to,” Nicole Warner said of Piper. “He's healthy again. He's great, but now knowing that she has this place to turn to this summer and reconnect with all the things she lost, is really going to be amazing.”
It is a summer experience that’s waiting just around the corner.