The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up many lives.
For 23-year-old Kate McCarthy, it has taken her from New York City to San Diego and now to Eagle Rock.
And now she finds herself both owner and head counselor of Kate’s Kamp, a day camp on Zoom for children ages 6-12 that is animated by activities like storytelling, improv games, group writing projects, character creation, dance parties, joke workshops, movement pieces and spelling games.
McCarthy works with groups of up to 10 kids 6-9 years old from 9-10 a.m. every weekday, and with groups of children ages 10-12 from 1-2 p.m.
She also offers individual or small group sessions if parents feel that their child would thrive more with one-on-one sessions or if joined by a friend.
Because of misfortune, McCarthy has reached down to make her own luck and maybe a little bit of fortune.
“It was actually my mom and her friend’s idea for me to do a venture like this during this weird summer, but I misunderstood their suggestion and thought they meant I should do group Zoom calls to make it seem like summer camp, when they just meant individual sessions. I ended up doing both,” McCarthy said.
True confession here. I hired her mother, Leslie, when I was the head of the Associated Press bureau in Indianapolis and Leslie was looking for a job. Her mother went on to a career as a top-flight journalist with the wire service, achieving the title of national writer.
McCarthy, who grew up in the San Francisco area, graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019 with a degree in theater and sociology. She moved to New York City and began working as a tutor, comedian and actor with Story Pirates — a nationally acclaimed educational organization that collects stories from young people and adapts them for the stage. Prior to graduation, she spent her summers interning for Conan O’Brien, “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” and “Saturday Night Live.”
She lost her job in New York when the pandemic hit and moved in with her sister, who just graduated from the Naval Academy and was living in San Diego. When the Navy moved her to a new housing arrangement, Kate ended up in Eagle Rock.
“I run all the sessions myself,” she said. “I’d say it’s keeping my brain nimble in the way that performance does, but otherwise it’s a pretty different muscle. I’m more attuned to the group than myself, trying to see how each kid is doing.
“I definitely perform while we’re doing improv or telling stories, which hopefully models for them how far they can take it and really commit. But I do feel a certain kinship with live performances when running these camps. I feel like I’m losing my young audience and need to switch things up to keep the attention and audience going.”
McCarthy said that she can tell if the children are not engaging and redirect the group. She said the parents have been hands-off but she has gotten some wonderful feedback on the program, which has attracted 15 children from as far away as Maryland. Two girls have repeated so far. One of them has been at nearly every week of camp and parents have inquired about availability for other weeks so their child can come back.
“Kate has added pure joy to my son’s life during this strange time,” said parent Julia Elman from the Bay Area. “She has been flexible and creative giving him the opportunity to flourish in new ways. We are forever grateful for this opportunity to work with her.”
McCarthy said she’d love to take her monthlong venture into the future, but as she reminds herself, who knows what the future will look like?
“This venture has reminded me how empowering and relieving it is to have your own piece of the sky —something to work on and organize,” she said. “All of my outlets went out the window with the pandemic and so this was a great way to have something to work on again.
“This has taught me to be flexible — to think on your feet and in the moment.”
The cost is $80 for one week of sessions, Monday through Friday, and there is a $40 charge for a one-hour individual or small group session.
For more information, visit kateskamp.com.