Organizers scramble for kids’ summer camp after last-minute cancellation

CHARLOTTE — A safe haven for young kids in Charlotte this summer was shut down before it could even get off the ground.

Jackie Lewis spent months preparing a camp to keep kids off the street in west Charlotte, only to be told the county no longer had space.

Monday would’ve been the first day of Lewis’ summer camp. She told Channel 9′s Ken Lemon that her goal was to create an alternative to violence in the same community where her son and grandson were killed.

But it all fell apart at the last minute.

“I feel disappointed, I feel hurt,” Lewis said.

She had planned for fun days at the splash pad, plus lessons in reading, math and science in the rec center. She worked on the plan for eight months hoping to make a difference in a community that has seen tragic loss, including the shooting deaths of her son and grandson four years ago.

“The main thing and my goal was to keep the kids safe out of harm’s way for the summer,” Lewis said.

She said late Friday afternoon that administrators at the West Charlotte Recreation Center called her and said they didn’t have space for her camp there.

“If that was the case, I should have been told that when we first started to talk,” Lewis said.

She said she sent notices to parents and met with some of them on Zoom. Still, some went to the center on Monday and got turned away.

It was a program that the children could have attended for free. When one mother found out it had been cancelled, she said it made her “angry [and] upset.”

“What are the kids gonna do?” said Sherrill Coutourier, who said she came for senior citizens and saw some of the parents get turned away.

“First my heart ached, and then I got angry,” Coutourier said. “Tell us old people to go, if that will give you more space.”

Lemon reached out to parks and rec officials Monday morning and was told that someone would talk about what went wrong.

Just after 5 p.m., the county sent Channel 9 a statement, saying: “A request to host a summer camp at West Charlotte Recreation Center was made on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. At that time, recreation center staff communicated to the requester, Jacqueline Lewis, that it was too late to host the summer camp at West Charlotte Recreation Center, according to Park and Recreation’s standard process and timeline for summer camp contracts. Additionally, several senior programs and another team camp were already scheduled to take place at that location. Staff suggested a nearby Park and Recreation facility, within two miles of West Charlotte Recreation Center, as an alternative.

Prior to the request being made, Park and Recreation had shared general information about the process to host a summer camp, as well as the structure of County-run teen summer camps. But a request was not submitted until June 11, when staff communicated the center’s unavailability.”

Lewis said she is trying to find another place to host the camp.

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