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Summer camp is back: Here's how YMCA Camp Thunderbird is planning to keep kids safe while having fun

YMCA Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie was lucky to be open last year at 65% capacity, but it's able to welcome more kids this year with safety measures in place.

LAKE WYLIE, S.C. — Summer camp is back on this year for thousands of kids across the Charlotte area -- it's another sign of normalcy after the pandemic shut down some camps last year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says summer camps are important for kids, and YMCA Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie was lucky to be open last year at 65% capacity. 

This summer, Camp Thunderbird is welcoming back campers in full force at almost 100% capacity. Camp is making a comeback, and 14-year-old Lillian Macrina has been counting down the days.

"I'm so glad to come back to camp it's kind of like a relief," Macrina said. 

Andy Belich, resident camp director at YMCA Camp Thunderbird, said they plan to give kids the most normal experience they can.

"The magic of camp is still alive," Belich said. "It's awesome to be able to serve the kids that need it more than ever."

Throughout the summer, Camp Thunderbird will host about 2,000 kids.

RELATED: Summer camps see record registration as kids, parents want out of the house

To keep campers safe, there will be daily health screenings, the dining hall will be at 50% capacity, and campers will live and interact in a cohort -- or small group.

"Each of our cabins become a cohort family, they operate as that family and walk around and do their activities together, and they don't intermix," Belich said.

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As another form of protection, the FDA recently gave authorization for teenagers to get Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

Belich said they're tracking who is vaccinated through camp medical forms, but it won't change much.

"It's great that they're vaccinated but that doesn't change our cohort and family size because not all our kids are vaccinated, it's just an extra layer," Belich said.

Amid everything that's happening, everyone seems to be ready for some summer fun -- there were happy campers, and happy parents.

"It's such an amazing experience for them especially now to be with their peers and to be with amazing role models and get to meet diverse people from all over," parent Alissa Macrina said.

As for masks, campers aren't required to wear them, but camp counselors and staff will wear them when they are no longer with their small groups, hosting different activities.

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

RELATED: Tips for parents to navigate their summer with kids