As businesses began to reopen in the summer, and essential workers continued to support our region, more and more families were seeking childcare options for their kids.

“My husband and I are essential workers so finding childcare amid the pandemic has been a constant challenge,” wrote one San Diego mom in a note to the YMCA. “Before the YMCA camps became available, we were sending our daughter to different caregivers each week. The YMCA summer camps saved our family during this crisis and kept our child safe and happy while we were at work.”

Her experience is not unique. As countless San Diego parents have learned, working, parenting and teaching all at the same time can be a significant challenge. Not to mention the profound impact the crisis has on our children.

A National Institutes of Health study, for example, notes children and adolescents are more likely to experience higher rates of depression and anxiety when they don’t interact with other children. With the pandemic forcing schools and childcare providers around the region to shut down in mid-March and with recreational opportunities dramatically reduced, the YMCA summer camps were, for a lot of kids, the first point of contact outside their immediate family since COVID-19 stay-at-home safety precautions were put in place.

That’s why the $1 million grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund to the YMCA of San Diego County was so vital this summer. The grant allowed the YMCA to safely reopen 13 camp locations across the County and provided nearly 1,000 under-resourced families and children with cost-free access.

“Without this grant, we most likely would not have been able to operate the summer day camps, and even if we would have, it would have been on a much, much more limited basis,” said Natalie Corrall, Association Director of Child and Youth Development for YMCA of San Diego County. “It would have been a very different summer.”

Unlike previous years where field trips would be a daily occurrence, Corrall explained that the YMCA team took safety very seriously throughout the process. “Not one child was transported off a YMCA facility for safety reasons and that meant our level of creativity and academic activity had to increase,” shared Corrall, explaining that STEM-related projects and partnerships with organizations such as the National Park Service and San Diego Zoo were a larger part of the programming.

Overall, the COVID-19 Community Response Fund enabled the YMCA to gift more than 6,000 weeks-worth of camp through scholarships during the summer months. In addition, critical job opportunities were provided to more than 300 YMCA camp counselors.

“Thanks to the YMCA camp, my husband, who is an essential worker, and I were able to meet our work responsibilities while knowing that our daughter was receiving excellent care,” said one parent whose daughter participated in the Cameron Family YMCA Camp in Santee. “Our daughter socialized safely, made wonderful friends, and thoroughly enjoyed many of the activities throughout camp. She got plenty of exercise, built relationships, and the academic and creative activities were fantastic.”

As our region continues to face the challenges of the pandemic, the COVID-19 Community Response Fund is prioritizing local children and families so that they continue to have the resources and support they need to thrive. You can help local families and children by donating today.