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Is summer still on schedule?

Malverne's Camp Lourdes faces uncertain season even as pandemic wanes

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June is usually full of excitement for children, with schools closing and summer camps starting at the end of the month. Next month may be different in not just one, but both ways, affecting the summer as well.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, whether camps will open on time — or at all — remains unknown. In Malverne, Camp Lourdes is taking a wait-and-see approach to its scheduling.

Last year, the camp celebrated its 21st anniversary in Our Lady of Lourdes parish, with more than 110 campers, 50 counselors and more than 25 counselors-in-training. The camp, at OLL, celebrates faith among children of all ages through arts and crafts, music and dance.

“We’re basically just waiting on what the governor says about summer camps to see what we’re allowed to do,” said Linda Baldacchino, the camp’s coordinator.

Baldacchino said that Camp Lourdes’ leaders had raised the idea of starting the camp later in the summer. The camp once operated in August, but in the past four years it was moved up to July.

“We’ve held Camp Lourdes every summer since 1999, so the thought of missing a year is devastating,” Baldacchino said. “There are certain kids where this is their first year as a counselor-in-training and they’ve expressed disappointment to me of how much they were looking forward to it. It would be a big disappointment, but we’re still hopeful for the best.”

Dawn O’Brien, whose three children — Faith, Reagan and A.J. Wladyka — are involved in Camp Lourdes, said they have all been involved in counselor training for the past four years. Her children love the camp, O’Brien said, because it keeps them busy during the months, in addition to their summer jobs.

“They’re a little worried about it this summer,” she said, “and it’s concerning for me, because I know that they like to volunteer. They’ve already started asking me about it, but I have faith in Father [Michael] Duffy” — the spiritual leader of OLL. “If it can be done, it will be done.”

O’Brien added that she is also concerned about the future of other summer programs, such as Camp ANCHOR in Lido Beach, where Faith also volunteers.

Many of the campers at Camp Lourdes, O’Brien said, go on to join OLL’s Youth Ministry, which takes part in numerous philanthropic events throughout the year. O’Brien said she hoped the camp would be held at some point this summer, to make campers’ return to school in September feel a little more normal.

“I think it’s important for the kids to get back to some normalcy, and this is definitely a part of how they’re used to spending their summers,” O’Brien said. “If they can have a week or two of Camp Lourdes over the summer and just get back into their group activities before they go back to school, it might be really good for them, too.”