Noelle Ruggles, left, and Miya Taylor-Dumas join their team in a tug-of-war competition during the 2020 Summer Heat Olympics on Aug. 20. That was the second-last day of a seven-week activity program for children offered by the Town of Hay River.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Summer Heat – a children’s activity program by the Town of Hay River – has wrapped up after an unusual, but still successful year.

Like everything else, Summer Heat had to make significant adjustments because of the Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic.

“We had such a fabulous time,” said Jill Morse, the co-ordinator of Summer Heat. “It was exactly what the kids needed and us camp leaders needed after the whole corona thing was to connect again and have some fun, and not have to worry about stuff and not have to stay in our houses.”

Normally, Summer Heat is based at the Hay River Community Centre and has access to the swimming pool. But the swimming pool was out this year, although there was access to the ice surface of the curling rink.

“So we had to be creative,” said Morse. “We made the basis of the program outside in the parks, and if it rained we would go to the curling club ice surface, which was also great.”

The seven-week program – which began on July 6 and ended on Aug. 21 – involved crafts, games and sports, and a variety of activities for the children.

“Overall, it was just such a great experience,” said Morse. “All the kids were so wonderful. We enjoyed them and they enjoyed us. We had a great time. I don’t want it to end. It’s really awesome, actually.”

Nine-year-old Paisley Fraser backed up that assessment.

“It was really fun,” she said on Aug. 20, the second-last day of Summer Heat. “And we played a lot of games. It’s been raining like for the past few days. It rained for an entire week, but it was still pretty fun. We were having a lot of fun.”

This year’s Summer Heat involved up to 22 children at a time – 11 boys and 11 girls aged from five to 12 years.

“There was more than that throughout the summer, though, because some only came for July and some were only going to come for July and then they were having so much fun they stayed through August,” said Morse, explaining that as spaces opened the next family on a waiting list would be contacted.

This year’s Summer Heat program and its precautions because of Covid-19 had to be approved by the GNWT.

“We had to do up a proposal that stated all our cleaning procedures and Covid procedures,” said Morse, noting that included such things as disinfecting procedures and hand sanitizing.

The parks would also be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis by the town.

Morse noted that the children were also encouraged to practise physical distancing by trying to avoid holding hands, hugging and wrestling.

“So we did try to encourage social distancing as much as possible,” she said. “Yes, it is harder to do with children, for sure. But I mean they totally understood. The kids understood that they needed to be a little bit more careful than they normally are when they’re playing with the other children.”

One of the other precautions was the children went home for lunch.

“They all had to bring their own snacks,” said Morse. “We only provided emergency snacks, if the child didn’t have snacks.”

Glenn Smith, the senior administrative officer with the Town of Hay River, said Summer Heat was a success.

“For the cost of it, it’s a good deal for those people to participate in all summer long,” he said.

“This year, certainly it was impacted by Covid,” Smith added, pointing to the lack of access to the community centre and the pool.

“I think they’ve had to be a little creative in their offerings,” he said. “We had a great co-ordinator in getting Jill Morse involved this year.”

Along with Morse, this year’s Summer Heat was run by two camp leaders.

One of the last events was the 2020 Summer Heat Olympics, held on Aug. 20.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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