University of Illinois Extension has announced the cancellation of all overnight summer camps sponsored or hosted by University of Illinois, including overnight residential 4-H camps conducted by Illinois 4-H. The cancellation will extend through July 31, 2020.
Camping is a valued part of the Illinois 4-H experience for thousands of kids every summer. Each year, staff invest a great deal of effort in creating a camp experience that provides a fun, safe space for kids to learn and grow. With public health and safety as a pressing concern around the world right now, we have had to make some tough decisions in order to prioritize community health.
“The safety and well-being of our campers is always our top priority—it always has been, it always will be,” says Lisa Diaz, Illinois Extension assistant dean and director of Illinois 4-H. “Health is the fundamental ‘H’ in ‘4-H’ and the decision to cancel camps this summer is a living lesson of putting the health of our families, friends, neighbors, communities, and nation into practice in real-time.”
While there exists uncertainty on how long the public gathering restrictions will be imposed, Diaz says, hosting overnight camping opportunities require extensive time for planning and logistics which required the organization to make decisions that allowed staff and families to move forward now.
As of today, no decisions have been made about 4-H shows, exhibits, and competitions for summer 2020, and we are currently operating as if these events will take place. With input from partners, we are also developing alternative formats for 4-H shows that may be impacted by COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, to provide an opportunity for our 4-H youth while protecting human and animal health.
“Much like camps, 4-H exhibitions require a great deal of preparation, both by host organizations and 4-H members preparing their projects,” says Shelly Nickols-Richardson, Illinois associate dean and Extension director. “We are exploring all options to find a viable means of offering safe venues for celebrating the accomplishments of our local youth. This includes actively gathering feedback from our participants and stakeholders and balancing that against the needs of our staff and volunteers.”