Camp Riverbend has always been about getting kids to stop looking at screens and start looking around. Now that coronavirus has made Zoom a verb, the mission feels even more important to director Robin Breene Hetrick.
“Every year we say, ‘It’s wonderful that the children are outside and not on their screens all the time,’” she says. “This year is to the nth degree. They’re Zooming for school. They’re Zooming when they’re playing on their computers. They’re Zooming if they want to interact with grandparents living in Florida. It’s even more of their life. This past year, this past fall, certainly, it seems every aspect of a child’s life now is online.”
“HAPPY TO BE OUTSIDE,” SAFELY
Camp Riverbend opened last summer, and followed all applicable health and safety guidelines. Outside entertainers were not allowed, clubs were canceled and masks and social distancing where used when deemed necessary by CDC guidance. Safety and cleaning protocols were, of course, enhanced.
Breene Hetrick continues to monitor government health recommendations and will adjust accordingly. She appreciates the worries of parents but notes that those that attend—safely—will see what she saw last year. “The children were so happy to be outside with their friends and having fun, and the parents were so happy to have their children have that experience,” says Breene Hetrick. “To be able to have a fun, community experience was very meaningful for both the children and the parents. The parents whose children attended in summer 2020 were very pleased they enrolled them.”
FAMILY FOR GOING ON 60 YEARS
In addition to safety, Camp Riverbend is a family. Literally. The camp was founded by educators Harold and Marianne Breene in 1962, and is now run by their children: Roger, Jill, Paul and Robin. The camp’s 30- acre site along the Passaic River includes woods, nature trails, a spray park, a wetlands sanctuary and athletic fields. There are four heated pools for daily swimming lessons and free swim, miniature golf, boating and all types of arts, performance and sports facilities. Sessions run seven weeks, with a two-week minimum – and are open to children from Pre-K through 9th grade. Breene Hetrick says that since many schools aren’t offering full-time in-person instruction, she expects more campers this summer. She bases that on the smiles she saw last summer. “The families of the campers who attended were so grateful,” she says. “The children really, really needed camp.”
116 Hillcrest Rd., Warren