With many people still unvaccinated for COVID-19, Tri-Valley organizations are taking extra precautions and offering both virtual and in-person activities to make sure everyone has a fun and safe summer -- no matter their comfort level.
"We are taking safety very seriously. We are absolutely following every county and state guideline," said Michele Crose, assistant director of library recreation services for the city of Pleasanton.
"At the same time, we want to make camp and summer programs as fun as possible, so we're offering a plethora of opportunities, more so than last year," added Crose, who said the city's programs will be strictly following safety precautions with mandatory face masks, hand washing and social distancing.
The majority of the city's summer programs were previously indoors but "this year we have made the change to hold as much or all of our programs outdoors," Crose said. "Where we can do that, we are adapting indoor spaces to create as much airflow and cleaning opportunities as we can."
Ultimately, Crose said, "We hope that all families that are looking to come and have some outdoor time, spend time with our youth participants and have a different experience than they've had before, come to our camps this year."
For example, capacity for the city's outdoor nature-based hiking program has been restricted to 60% for the regular youth program for 6 to 12 years old, and 80% for the Wittle Ridge Runner Camp, which is for children ages 4 to 6.
With more than 40 in-person and virtual options available, Crose said participants can have a socially distanced summer via the city's remote programs or mask up and have fun "outside, away from home, experiencing something new this year."
"We definitely found COVID has changed how people feel about coming out (in public)," Crose added. "We want to make sure families know that we are still here and it's safe. It's incredibly safe to come with us and have the same fun experience as before."
Safety amid the pandemic remains a top focus for summer program organizers across the Tri-Valley, both public and private.
Local nonprofit organization Sunflower Hill, which serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is planning to squeeze in a few more participants in each group for their outdoor gardening program, bringing each cohort total to five people, according to Executive Director Edie Nehls.
"Planning for this summer this year was really exciting for our staff because we're opening up a little more for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and have underlying health concerns," Nehls said.
Last year the garden was deemed an essential business "so we kept our staff working out there," Nehls said. "We very slowly and methodically worked with the Alameda County Public Health Department to bring volunteers back out because summer is such a big harvest season, and in fall we brought really small cohort groups to the garden."
Everything grown in Sunflower Hill's organic garden -- including tomatoes, fava beans, broccoli, cauliflower, berries, and peaches -- was selected with the idea to "make sure there are things that are accessible and easy for people with different motor skills."
"Picking raspberries takes very fine motor skills compared to peach harvesting," Nehls said, adding, "doing the compost bins is a really great activity for people with really large, big muscle group skills."
"It definitely is an educational, therapeutic life skills program," Nehls added. "Not only does it support their continued education, if somebody is working on the produce donations ... then maybe they're responsible for weighing the produce and writing down how much the produce weighs."
A new virtual cooking program geared toward helping intellectually and developmentally disabled adults learn independent skills such as adapted culinary techniques also teaches new recipes.
Nehls said the culinary program is "trying to dispel this belief that lumping kids with IDD adults is OK. We're trying to push them up and out of the children's category because they're not children, they're adults."