ASHFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Summer camp kicks off at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford on Thursday. Preparations are underway before campers and their families arrive.

“It’s four days of family fun,” said Hilary Axtmayer, Chief Program Officer at the camp. 

Ahead of the first day, News 8 got a walkthrough of the grounds and a closer look at camp this year, which serves seriously ill children. There will be some changes because of the pandemic and devastating fire earlier this year. Powerful flames destroyed the building, which housed arts and crafts, the woodshop, and the cooking program.

“We’re using a lot of tents,” explained Axtmayer. “We’re doing a lot of outdoor programming, which is good because of COVID anyway! We’re encouraging our families to be outside as much as possible.”

Axtmayer said rebuilding is already planned and they’ll break ground on the new building once summer camp wraps up in August. Those efforts have been made possible by the generosity of many.

“We know how special this place is and what a huge difference it makes in the lives of the children we serve, but to get that support and this outpouring of love was incredibly humbling,” said Axtmayer.

To make it a safe and fun experience for everyone, families are coming as a family unit. They’ll stay together in a cabin and travel from one activity to the next, wearing masks and practicing social distancing. There will also be COVID-19 testing on-site and everyone will be tested once they get there. Axtmayer said they can’t wait to welcome everyone back.

“It’s a really transformative experience,” she said. “We hear it from our families, we hear it from our kids, we hear it from our former campers.”

Their work stretches far beyond the campground in Ashford. Their programs, which span communities and hospitals across the Northeast, bring healing experiences to more than 20,000 kids and their families annually.

For a closer look at these programs and their work, click here: