Kids Just Want to Have Fun

ECF grant helps Autism Centre offer safe and fun summer camps during COVID-19

Each summer, dozens of kids descend on the Centre For Autism Services Alberta (CFASA) in southeast Edmonton for summer day camp. The campers have two things in common: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) — a developmental disorder affecting communication and behaviour — and a keen desire to enjoy the summertime.

“The ultimate goal is really giving the kids, teens, and youth an experience in the summer that they might otherwise not be able to do because of the barriers,” said Brady Hughes, CFASA’s Community and Family Services Coordinator. Supports provided by the organization, such as one-on-one aides, ensure campers can safely enjoy summer events and activities throughout Edmonton.

But when the pandemic was announced in the spring, CFASA knew camp would need to change to keep everyone safe. They began planning to move camp online and received a grant of nearly $9,000 from Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF), through the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Service Response Fund (ECSF), to help with the unexpected costs.

“As much as we adults are feeling stir-crazy these days, I can’t imagine what it’s like for kids,” Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement said. “Providing recreational and social opportunities – in a safe way – isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.”

Fortunately, Alberta entered stage two of its reopening in mid-June and CFASA was able to offer in-person camps after all — albeit with fewer campers, fewer on-site activities, and social distancing. Hughes explained that the ECF grant was instrumental as it allowed the organization to rent the storage bay next door and ensure adequate space.

“It was a great empty space where we could open the door and get [campers] fresh air,” he said. “They could be loud and do things like play basketball and draw with chalk on the floors.” A fenced -off area outside the bay offered a safe outdoor space as well, which was important as the centre isn’t close to playgrounds or parks.

The grant also allowed CFASA to buy everything it needed to keep everyone safe during camp, including personal protective equipment, cleaning products, hand sanitizer, and non-touch thermometers. The funds also supported the hourly wages of janitorial staff tasked with cleaning the facility according to stringent government regulations.

“Usually fun is our priority, but we really had to balance this with safety and the concerns of families so they could maintain confidence in us that their kids were safe,” said Hughes. “You need the resources to ensure you have that ability, and the grant provided for that.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.