Tawnya Jones loves to paint and it’s one of her many hobbies.Easter Seals online camp. “I like the interactiveness.,” Tawyna says. “We did a movie night one night and we did a campfire song night.” “They also had a dance and everybody dressed up and had a big party,” Patti adds. “They really did a fantastic job! Easter Seals and Camp Shawnigan is amazing — they’ve been doing a wonderful job for a long time.” Easter Seals pivoted to online programming in 2020, after overnight camps had to be cancelled. “We were worried about not providing services to our community, which we’ve served for over 50 years, and so we created a program where participants can log into zoom and participate from their own home,” explains Dale Kilgour, assistant director of camp programs and facilities for the British Columbia Lions Society for Children with Disabilities.“I like to sing and read and swim,” Tawnya says. But for people with disabilities like Tawyna, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially isolating and finding ways to stay connected has been a big challenge. “It’s been really hard because her program didn’t have the physical space for her to go back, even when the numbers went down, so she’s literally been home since mid-March almost two years ago so it’s been tough,” says Tawnya’s mom, Patti Raffle. Virtual programs have helped and Tawnya was excited to take part in
The success of the digital summer camp — held in July and August — led to another new year-round programming online.“Our most popular program is our social clubs, which focus on the connection from person to person and being a part of our community,” Dale says. For Tawnya, who grew up going to Camp Shawnigan, making new friends online and feeling connected has helped her feel less isolated. “I think it’s pretty awesome that people, adults and children with disabilities can join something like that,” Tawnya says. Easter Seals is planning to run in-person camps this summer for the first time since COVID, unless restrictions change, in addition to online camps. “We found we had a lot of new registrants we hadn’t seen before in online camp,” Dale says. “It was incredible to see all these kids who’ve never met each other, except over zoom, just immediately lock eyes and know that’s my friend.” Registration for all camps opens on March 1st.