Dozens of kids eagerly anticipating a break from monotony through a D.C. summer sports camp were disappointed to learn last week that camp was canceled.
As parents shuffle plans and seek refunds, they’ve been given no clear reason why D.C. denied at least five camps’ waivers from public health restrictions.
“We’ve tried to get me in for three years now, and this was the year. So I was really excited about that,” said Zana Pinchotti, who was looking forward to honing her soccer skills this week at an elite camp run by the Spanish soccer club FC Barcelona. It was set to begin Monday.
“It’s just, they called it last minute and I was all ready to go and everything, so it was really sad,” said the 10-year-old D.C. resident.
Pinchotti wasn’t the only disappointed camper. On Friday, the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) denied “several” summer camp waivers, the mayor’s office confirmed.
WTOP learned that the Real Madrid Foundation, Home Run Baseball, Headfirst Professional Sports and D.C. United camps were also denied waivers to operate.
Each camp received a letter from HSEMA — obtained by WTOP — which states, “At this time, we are not approving waivers for events over the mass gathering limit of fifty persons, including these sports clinics with small groups of players.”
However, the initial reason given to Pinchotti’s parents alerting them to FC Barcelona’s camp cancellation cited concerns over the District’s rising coronavirus cases.
“Unfortunately, the DC Events Group sent a letter to the RFK Fields saying that this Monday all camps, gatherings, etc, would need to be canceled due to the spike in COVID-19 cases,” FC Barca Academy said in an email to parents.
“I keep looking at the numbers, and the numbers for D.C. are going down,” said Zana’s father, David Pinchotti, who wants clarity on the District’s decision to cancel her camp.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it. I think someone is making this up as they go along,” he said.
Events DC, which operates the RFK complex, did not return WTOP’s request for an explanation. However, D.C.’s HSEMA director Chris Rodriguez offered more detail, stating that camps of any sport with medium to high physical contact among campers were denied waivers.
“It was very frustrating. We were very much looking forward to the camp. We had our stuff ready, U-Hauls ready, everything in place. It was a big blow for us,” said an FC Barcelona staff member who didn’t want to be identified.
On the guidance from RFK’s director and facility managers, he said, FC Barcelona reduced its camp size to 60 kids and tightened its training groups from 12 to nine campers to facilitate social distancing and safety requirements.
“We accommodated everything they requested,” he said.
Unlike FC Barcelona, D.C. United did not have a camp starting the Monday after the waivers were denied. It operates soccer camps at two other locations in Virginia and Maryland, so when it learned its waiver to hold camp at RFK’s fields was denied, D.C. United gave its D.C.-enrolled campers the option to relocate or get a refund, said the club’s Austin Sumners.
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