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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – After more than a year of sitting empty, Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center is prepping for their first major step back towards normalcy with the resuming of their summer Happy Camp, doubling the number of sessions to take on more people while also keeping social distancing for dozens of students eager to be together once again.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to make space, however, we can adjust to accommodate, we’re going to,” Outreach Director Jen DiCarlo said.

Until May, instructors hosted daily Zoom classes in order to offer a sense of community to students at home.

Last month, they brought in a select few to begin the transition with blended virtual and in-person classes. The summer camps will be the first full in-person opportunity since March of 2020.

“One of the reasons that Merrimack was started is because we noticed a lack of services in the arts for the special needs community, so to have that halted, that was hard,” DiCarlo said.

She said the isolation that accompanied Quarantine was tough to overcome, even with virtual classes.

“For some it feels like maybe it’s their job, for others, it’s a continuing education so to lose that and lose seeing your friends every day, I think it was a big adjustment for people,” she said.

Now, the team is facing another challenge: finding enough volunteers to help teach the number of summer campers looking to come back.

“We are accepting volunteers now, we need them, the more volunteers we have, the more participants we can have, especially for that younger age group,” DiCarlo said.

DiCarlo said some of their students meet their best friends here, and to many, the Merrimack community is like a second family, so they’re thrilled to welcome campers back on June 14th.