In May 2020, as the State of Arizona emerged from stay-at-home orders, Nicole Bergier, the coordinator for the Healthy 2B Me Summer Camp, was faced with a daunting question: Is it possible to deliver some version of the camp without any kids gathering in-person? There was no easy solution, and the decision had to be made quickly. Bergier already had public health students from the Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona signed up to help with the camp. And she knew that many families would welcome healthy activities to keep kids engaged during the long summer at home.
Bergier decided to try a new approach, something she called Camp in a Box, and she found a way to work with her student interns. In the end, over four week-long camp sessions, she was able to reach 26 Tucson families, and a total of 55 kids, with a week-long schedule of health promoting activities built around healthy habits and family interaction!
This summer of 2020 was the 8th year of the Healthy 2B Me camp, which was developed by the Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention and Health Promotion (CRCPHP) to engage kids ages 7-10. Before COVID-19, the week-long day camp engaged kids with fun and healthy activities like swimming, yoga, Zumba, team building, and cooking demonstrations, while they also learned about sun safety, dental hygiene, tobacco prevention, nutrition, germ safety, and more.
To produce the Camp in a Box, Bergier and her student interns worked closely together, but physically apart. Everyone worked from home and communicated over Zoom. MPH student Ricardo Montejano guided the process as the lead student, and coordinated with MEZCOPH undergraduate students Keye Garman, Ivan Kamali, Ricky Tran, and Erendira Zazueta.
First, Bergier and her student team reviewed the curriculum for the different weeks of camp that had been developed over the years for the in-person version of the camp. Then they adapted the curriculum for each week into a program of at-home activities for kids that could be guided by parents. They printed out the new activity binders, purchased supplies, and started packing boxes for Camp in a Box.
At the same time, Bergier connected with families and community partners who had participated in the camp in previous years so she could recruit families for the upcoming four weeks of camp. The first week was composed of families whose kids had attended Healthy 2B Me previously, the second week reached families from Dietz K-8 School, the third week engaged families from Prince Elementary school, and the fourth week reached a whole new group of families that had applied to the camp before COVID-19 shut things down. At the start of each week, Bergier and her team delivered the physical boxes that contained Camp in a Box to each family’s home, using public health practices to keep everyone safe. The boxes included all the camp supplies, the binder guide for the week’s activities, and healthy groceries. Then Bergier communicated with the families by phone and email to support the camp program during the week.
“We heard really positive things from the families,” said Bergier, “They were very appreciative, and they really enjoyed the activities. Many of these families need resources, and we were able to provide those and give the kids healthy activities. I’m really proud of what we accomplished after we had to pivot because of COVID.” A formal evaluation of Camp in a Box is underway.
Bergier and her student team were able to help many families with a Healthy 2B Me camp experience at-home with the innovative Camp in a Box program. The experience was positive for everyone involved and helped kids who were stuck at home to make it through the summer. In fact, Bergier recently won a University of Arizona 2020 Award for Excellence for her work with the Healthy 2B Me camp and the Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention & Health Promotion. One nominator called her "an invaluable asset and inspiration to our students and staff" while another praised her leadership of the Healthy 2B Me summer camp for children in underserved communities. Congratulations Nicole!
“The idea behind Healthy 2B Me is to instill healthy behaviors in young children,” said Cynthia Thomson, PhD, RDN, CRCPHP director and a professor in the UArizona Zuckerman College of Public Health. “Nicole did an amazing job of adapting to difficult circumstances and still reaching kids and families with health promotion activities.”
Along with Bergier and the staff at CRCPHP, everyone at the Zuckerman College of Public Health hopes that next summer, in 2021, the pandemic will be history and kids can again come together in person for camp. Many thanks to Bergier and her students for finding a way to help families stay healthy and connected during these difficult times! This is another example of the many ways that staff, faculty, and students from the College have found to support our Tucson and Pima County communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Explore the other stories on the website to learn more, publichealth.arizona.edu.