Special Love, Inc. (Camp Fantastic)
2021 Northwestern Excellence in Camp Programming -Video Submission
Name of Entry:
Camp Fantastic - A Virtual Adventure
What Should the Voters Know?:
Virtual Camp Fantastic 2021 faced a daunting task (one common many other COCA-I member camps who couldn't attend in-person): create a virtual experience that was even bigger and better than 2020, Because our campers were now well over a year into the pandemic, they were understandably Zoom-weary and needed a bigger "wow factor" in 2021.
Special Love responded by offering engaging content like homemade "bath bombs" and "erupting volcanoes," plus unique crafts such as "glamingos" with celebrity party planner David Tutera and "popsicle art" with professional fashion artist Joanna Baker. We also had interactive nature content with a coastal wildlife instructor, beauty tips from a Hollywood makeup artist, and perennial favorites like cooking, dance, and more.
Teens have be especially hard to reach with virtual programming, so this year one of our volunteers created a "virtual campground" modeled after our host camp, the Northern VA 4-H Center, on the platform Gather Town. Campers could log-in and create an avatar that they used to navigate the camp, video chatting and playing games with the other campers they encountered. The platform was so popular that the teens used it four of the six nights of camp. A volunteer group from Capital One organized and led scavenger hunts, mysteries, and trivia contests on the other two nights.
Camp Fantastic already serves some of the most acutely ill children in the country, but there are always kids whose medical needs are too elaborate to address at in-person camp. Virtual programming solved that problem allowing us to bring camp to their hospital beds.
Because we videotaped every session and provided fully-stocked camp boxes, campers as far away as Arizona (and Hawaii!) could go to our website and do the projects on their time. We also had a camper who was too sick to join us live and completed all the projects when she returned home from the hospital the following week.
While we hope to be back in person for camp in 2022, we plan to continue to offer a virtual component to camp for those kids who can't leave the hospital, or travel to camp. To that end, we are in the process of upgrading the wi-fi and server capacities of our host facility, the Northern VA 4-H Educational Center. We look forward to reaching even more campers in 2022!
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