Victor Surkos was planning for his third year at Haliburton Hockey Haven Sports Camp this summer.

The 11-year-old Scarborough native said he had a lot of fun there and was looking forward to seeing friends and trying out the new soccer field.

But with the province cancelling overnight summer camps May 19 due to COVID-19, Surkos will be missing out this year.

“Pretty sad that I can’t see my friends or my counsellors,” Surkos said. “They taught me a lot, how to play sports … I was going to play soccer and I was really excited.”

Camps both locally and across the province have scuttled their planned programs after the provincial announcement. That includes Hockey Haven and Camp Medeba.

In a statement, Hockey Haven and the Binnie family said their sympathies go out to everyone whose lives and health have been impacted by COVID-19. It further said they had hoped to provide for children this summer.

“We so very much wanted to provide the outlet for your children this summer and bring them the physical activity and mental stimulus that they so desperately crave,” Hockey Haven said. “Unfortunately, that is not meant to be this summer and we couldn’t be more disappointed.”

Camp Medeba executive director Steve Archibald said he was not surprised by the provincial decision, but it is still unfortunate, especially for campers and staff.

“To miss out on a summer which is so life-giving to so many of them, it’s just really disappointing,” Archibald said.

Although the province is still allowing day camps, Archibald said with the restrictions that would be necessary, the camp decided not to proceed with their day camp programs. Although Camp Medeba is a year-round facility, Archibald said the charity makes 70-75 per cent of its funding from May to October.

Losing that is a financial hit, but Archibald said they remain optimistic. The organization is also starting a Medeba-in-a-box program to send out regular activity boxes to campers.

“For any camp, it’s a vast financial challenge,” Archibald said. “We’re hopeful. We’re doing everything we can to make sure we come out the other side of this and are able to carry on.”

Sarah Surkos, Victor’s mother, said it is a difficult situation for energetic kids who are normally much busier.

“He’s going crazy without being active,” she said. “They’re going stir crazy.”

Both camps have seen outpourings of support, with dozens of comments online lamenting their closure.

“We’re a Christian organization, so for us, we’re praying and trusting that God will see us through this,” Archibald said. “Very
thankful for people, to see just how they have responded.”

“This is a hard time for a lot of people,” Sarah Surkos said. “We just hope these camps survive and last.”

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