by Pete Mazzaccaro

The story of COVID-19 is one of sacrifice, stress and loss. This week, we have a story highlighting the efforts of Army Reservists who are working at Chestnut Hill Hospital to help hospital staff handle the extraordinary stress of treating patients with COVID-19 and the unavoidable heartache of tending to those who are dying from the disease.

Also in our pages this week is a story republished from WHYY on the stresses many parents across the state are experiencing as they attend not only to their work but to the educational needs of their children. It’s a story to which I can easily relate as I wage a nearly daily struggle to get my 12-year-old away from video games and back to his online schoolwork. I sympathize with him. Online gaming is the only way he can safely socialize with his friends.

There’s a wide range of very real stress on adults – from parents to healthcare workers to COVID-19 patients. These are all significant to varying degrees. But what I’ve been increasingly concerned with is what will become of the summer plans for kids everywhere. It’s impossible to compare a loss of summer activities to a loss of life. And I’m not going to try. But the sacrifices our kids are making right now, and likely long into the rest of this year, are not insignificant. And it’s about a lot more than a loss only of graduation ceremonies and birthday parties.

As I sat down to write this editorial, I received an email that my son’s summer camp was cancelled for 2020. It was a camp he has been going to for four years for different periods of time. Over the past two summers, he spent four weeks living in what was essentially a canvas, open-wall tent on a wood platform. Far from any electronic devices, he cherished the freedom of outdoor fun, 24-hour companionship and wall-to-wall activities. Last year, his most sought-after birthday gift was an Instax Mini-9 instant camera to capture memories he was going to make at camp. Right now, I have no idea what he or any other kids are going to do this summer.

Summer camps are just one of many programs for area kids that are sure to evaporate as the threat of COVID-19 lingers through the year. Any activity that brings people together – from day camps, to swimming to sports, are going to face serious questions about feasibly and safely opening. Faced with the uncertainty, it’s hard to imagine how any program can commit to safeguarding children. And how are parents supposed to manage then, particularly if they’re compelled to go back to office jobs if they’re not already working outside of the home now?

Whether it’s summer camp or just a season of going to a public pool, the loss of summer activities is going to hurt our kids a great deal. These are life-forming experiences that are quickly evaporating before our eyes. I may be stressed with working and part-time education duties, but I’m more hurt by the sacrifices our kids are going to make this year.

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