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Newton. The Kittatinny Regional High School Cheerleading Team didn’t give up on their annual summer camp. They reinvented it.

08 Sep 2020 | 06:51

COVID-19 has cancelled many fun activities, making lots of people pretty bummed. The Kittatinny Regional High School Cheerleading Team is here to put a smile on your face and a pop of pathological optimism in your heart. To make sure they were ready for the season, the team created their own camp.

The cheer team normally attends one of the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) residential camps at Lake Bryn Mawr in Honesdale, Pa. But this year, all residential camps were canceled.

“We still wanted to hold camp with NCA, but that meant either a home style camp, where the NCA staff comes to you, or a virtual camp,” said Cheer Team coach, Sam Lupo. “We opted for a home camp but still wanted to give our kids the residential camp feel.”

One of Kittatinny’s cheer moms works at Fairview Lake YMCA Camp, which was still able to rent to groups and families.

“This excited our ‘cheer family,’ as we really wanted our kids to be able to stay together and get a full cheer camp experience even during this crazy time,” Lupo said

Lupo contacted Fairview Lake YMCA and booked Wickapeck Lodge, which sleeps up to 50 people. Camp ran for three days, beginning Wednesdays at noon and ending Fridays at 4 p.m.

“Our amazing NCA staff members, Jeff and Lexi, arrived each morning to deliver top notch cheer curriculum, teach new stunts, and help us grow as a team,” Lupo said. “Staff left each day at 4 p.m., but we spent the night as a team in the large Wickapeck cabin.”

Using Fairview allowed the team -- both the new junior high team and the high school team -- to bunk together. “Our parents really helped us organize everything and were extremely supportive with having the kids spend the night,” Lupo said.

In addition to Lupo, coaches Amy Ricciardi and alumni volunteer Jessie Pattermann attended from Kittatinny.

“Fairview Lake YMCA has been successfully operating Blue Mountain Day Camp for the past nine weeks,” said Marc Koch, executive director of the camp. “Simultaneously, we have been running a family cabin rental program the entire summer.”

Before the programs started, the YMCA developed a Covid playbook in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Health and the American Camp Association. “We have instituted strict cleaning and disinfecting measures to include UV lights, regular fogging of interior buildings, electrostatic spraying of program equipment and surfaces after each use, numerous hand sanitizing stations, and more,” Koch said. “With a 660-acre campus, we have plenty of room to keep socially distant. Masks are only required indoors or when participants are not able to be socially distant outside.”

Koch said the camp was thrilled to have the team cheering and practicing on the field. Going forward, Fairview Lake YMCA is offering a school year day camp throughout the fall and winter to support children through their remote learning days.

“Missing our opportunity to attend our normal camp location was upsetting because our team needed to be together,” Lupo said. “You grow so much as a program when you spend nights together learning how to live with others, understand each other and enjoy quality time.”

Together, close to home

The organizers were excited about an option where they could get the team to stay together but still be close to home.

“Running a home camp schedule let us have nights with our team to do activities such as s’mores by the campfire, racing war canoes on the lake, and late night team talks,” Koch said. “The girls have been working together since July and camp is always our culminating event before returning to school. Our kids needed this time together. These three days made life feel ‘normal’ for them, and as soon as we were home, they were telling us they wanted to go back. It was great to see them together.”

The KRHS Cheer Team plans to cheer at football games once the season starts.

“We will continue to prepare for football, basketball, and competition season, although we are not expecting an actual (cheer) competition season,” Lupo said. “Our practice schedule will look a bit different, and we will be practicing outside as per the state guidelines.”

The team had 13 All-American team nominees and two members selected to the All-American Team (senior Meg Ryerson and freshman Brianna Casale. The entire program (junior high and high school) received a bid to attend a Varsity special event performance and a bid to NCA Nationals. The program was also recognized with the Herkie T.E.A.M. award for showing true team spirit, unity and leadership throughout the week.

“Our athletic director, Todd VanOrden, stopped by to see the girls working hard on day one of camp,” Lupo said. “Our team is growing, and it is amazing to see even in such a crazy time.”

“Running a home camp schedule let us have nights with our team to do activities such as s’mores by the campfire, racing war canoes on the lake, and late night team talks. Our kids needed this time together. These three days made life feel ‘normal’ for them, and as soon as we were home, they were telling us they wanted to go back.” --Marc Koch