Camp Ruggles, a therapeutic summer day camp for children diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disabilities, has operated on the grounds of Irons Homestead - the Southern New England Conference retreat center in Glocester, RI - for 46 years.
The camp typically runs for 6 weeks in the summer, with 60 campers and 30 staff. This year, due to COVID-19, the camp ran for 5 weeks. It opened with 30 kids and then increased to 40, with 26 staff on site each day.
James Field, Camp Ruggles Executive Director, wrote the following reflection on the summer:
The decision to open Camp Ruggles for the 46th consecutive summer on the beautiful grounds of the historical Irons Homestead did not come easy. Countless hours were spent analyzing CDC, American Camp Association, and RI State and Health Department guidelines to assure we could safely protect all of our campers, staff, and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.It surely would have been easier and less stressful to stay closed for the summer. As our decision on whether to open or not neared, it was the passionate pleas by parents and guardians that made us push forward. All children benefit from the social, emotional and physical experiences that an outdoor summer camp can provide.
For our campers, who are diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disabilities and who have experienced many early onset traumas, the need for human interaction and the normalcy of summer was magnified.
After successfully completing our 5 week camping session I now know our hard work and decision to open was probably the most impactful decision I have made as Executive Director over the past 16 years. From the pure joy on campers’ faces throughout the summer, to parent/guardian praise and thank you letters, our team once again was able to experience the enormous impact that can happen in a live therapeutic setting filled with positive adult and child connections.
We are extremely thankful for the support and flexibility of the Irons Homestead staff and administration this summer. Their help and guidance during these unprecedented times made for a safe and fun filled summer with countless memories for our campers and staff.