AUSTIN (KXAN) — Maia Mejia remembers feeling nervous but excited back in 2019 when she was getting ready to spend a week at Austin Sunshine Camps. This year, she’s just ready to get outside after a year spent indoors online.
“I’ve never been on the computer this much in my lifetime,” the 10-year-old said. “It’s like part of our body.”
She is just one of around 900 youth the free Austin Sunshine Camps will serve this summer. The nonprofit offers a weeklong overnight camping experience for children between the ages of 8 to 15. Children who qualify for free or reduced lunch at school or are a child in foster care qualify for the free camp.
“Nothing can compare to sunshine camp,” Mejia said.
For the young camper, it’s the new friends and activities that keep her wanting to go back, and outdoor games like GaGa ball.
“I think that was one of my favorite things,” Mejia said about the game that involves “sand and the ball and you’re smacking it.”
However, the nonprofit said to provide free camps for children like Mejia they need people to sign up for the 2021 H-E-B Austin Sunshine Run, organized by the Young Men’s Business League.
All of the proceeds and funds raised from the run go to the Austin Sunshine Camps. Typically, the run would take place this weekend, but the event was postponed until August because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For that reason, they’re asking runners to sign up before the end of May in hopes of raising enough funds to send children to camp.
“If people register and pre-register and pay, they still get to do the run later in August, but we need the funding now so that we can buy the things that we need for camp,” Jessica Foulke, the nonprofit’s chief programs officer said.
For every $500 raised from the run’s registrations, one child is able to attend Austin Sunshine Camps, giving children like Mejia and others an opportunity to spend a week at summer camp.
“I think everybody should have a chance to get that experience to be able to feel what it’s like to be outside and outdoors and have fun and they can be themselves at sunshine camp and feel at home,” Mejia said.
The 2021 H-E-B Austin Sunshine Run will take place on the last Sunday in August. People can register online now for an in-person 5K, 10K or Kids-K run as well as the Fastest Dog in Austin 5K. Because of the pandemic, a virtual 5K or 10K run will also be offered. The run has been rescheduled to August 29.
Those at the camp tell KXAN they will follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines which require everyone from campers to staff to take a rapid test before entering. Masks are also required.