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New Direction in a Time of Need

By Sandra Eagle

Faced with the prospect of days at home with no school for his 5-year old son, Dustin Rivers pivoted his expertise with conferences to an online virtual camp for kids of all ages. Rivers is co-founder and executive director of Ottawa-based VCM, EventSystemPro, an event registration and event management system. In these peculiar times he and his business partner have turned their company into a necessary diversion for parents and kids stuck inside their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Virtual Camp was the idea we came up with when we knew we were going to be working from home and we have to entertain our kids. We could sit around and pout and be angry—and that is sometimes how I feel. But Virtual Camp is giving my business partner, Chris Lutz, and I a purpose—we’re getting up in the morning and having showers and having conversations about producing content. For Chris and I that is a big benefit. We’ve been able to create videos that really engage kids.”

The camp has run for the two weeks prior to the Easter break. “The hard work starts once a week of camp is done. It takes four days to create two and a half days of camp,” says Rivers. “It’s like running a conference every week—luckily we’ve had some instructors who can do multiple sessions.”

Rivers went out to his community for instructors and ideas for sessions for the virtual camp ranging from building a catapult out of elastics and popsicle sticks, making home-made modelling compound, creating mango slushies and how to do origami. On the day we talked, Nature Canada had stepped up to the plate to do a wildlife session and then Rivers’ wife, a teacher, but former professional dancer, was going to host an introduction to disco. Rivers says the most engaging sessions are ones that kids participate in.

So far, the camp has seen up to 250 registrations. “We will take some time to re-evaluate over the Easter holiday, and with virtual school starting up, we may go to a half-day model that offers camp sessions in the afternoon.” And if you have a particular expertise, you should connect with Rivers. “We’re accepting any and all ideas—get your kids involved—the most popular sessions are those that include kids. I’ve been trying to get someone to do a puppet show—but no luck yet.” If you’ve got something to contribute or want to register your kids, click here.

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