Easter Seals’ Camp Horizon near Bragg Creek needs $500K as it relaunches camps again after 2 years

For 23-year-old Alex Mertens, coming to Camp Horizon means being able to do all the things other young people do at camp.

Mertens, who has cerebral palsy, has being enjoying the camp near Bragg Creek, Alta., since she was 15 years old.

“Going to camp gives me some independence,” she said.

“It’s the best week of my life when I come here.”

Read more: Summer camp is back in Alberta but with some hesitation

Mertens will be returning to camp in July. This spring, the sound of kids at band camp at Camp Horizon started again after being silenced for two years. That has been great for teen musicians and great for Easter Seals Alberta, which runs the camp.

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The organization depends on facility rental revenue that nearly dried up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been really tough for us. We had to cancel basically all of our 2020 bookings,” said Katherine Such, the CEO of Alberta Easter Seals.

This summer, Camp Horizon will be running at 75 per cent capacity.

Such said that’s because finding staff has been a struggle and they still want to keep people distanced as much as possible.

“Our camper safety is our No. 1 priority, so we’re making sure that as we relaunch we’re doing it safely — that we have all the supports in place that they need to make sure they have the safest summer possible while getting the unique experience they always do from Camp Horizon,” Such said.

She said when registration opened in early March, it filled up within a day.

“We already have an over 40-person waitlist,” Such said.

The Alberta Camping Association said it has been a mixed bag when it comes to camps filling up, with demand being higher for day camps.

“That’s probably where we are seeing the biggest shift,” said Kathleen Gurski, vice-chair of the Alberta Camping Association. “The fills in day camp are quite quick and the filling of overnight camp is a little bit slower.

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“I think with day camps there’s less anxiety because it’s more like kids at school. For parents who send their kids to day camp, it seems common sense and not really a big risk for them to take. However, sending them to overnight camp could be a larger perceived risk.”

This year, Camp Horizon is requiring that all staff and campers have their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Read more: Future of Alberta summer camps up in the air as operators, families wait for word from the province

With the drops in revenue and the increased costs, Easter Seals Alberta said it needs to raise over half-a-million dollars to help subsidize the cost of camp. Every camper who comes to Camp Horizon is subsidized by 50 per cent.

Camp officials said that running camps at a reduced capacity will raise the overall “cost per camper” as overhead costs at camp remains static. They have also adjusted their staffing model to reduce cross-cohorting, which further impacts costs.

Easter Seals Alberta’s Camp Horizon provides individuals with disabilities and medical conditions with outdoor camp experiences.

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