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How My Child Got Lost at Summer Camp

Updated on June 19, 2017

Lost Child in Summner Camp

To these counselors, YOU LOST MY CHILD, MY BABY, MY LITTLE BOY!!!!!! Do you know what could have happened

How You Lost My Child In Summer Camp

As parents of two beautiful children, our daughter Jamie 8 and son Aiden 4, summer comes and always seems to bring the additional stress of where are the kids spending there summer days while I go to work, full time in Monterey, and my husband is in school in Santa Cruz. So as most parents do we chose our nearest YMCA for their Summer Camp. Both my children were extremely excited to go to camp. Jamie was looking forward to swimming everyday at camp, since she dreams of becoming a mermaid. Aiden was excited to be going to a “big boy summer camp” and riding the school bus to the zoo field trip mid week. Monday came and off we went to summer camp. As any first day of camp it was hectic and seemed very disorganized. I asked to meet one of the counselors from each of my kids group, this was important for me so that I could introduce my children to an adult figure. Since my kids are four years apart I knew that they would be in different age groups, Jamie being 8 years old was placed in the “Adventure” group and Aiden being 4 years old was placed in the “Discovery” group. I spoke to each, very young counselor’s; about my kids and we all said our good-byes. Jamie being the oldest does not give me any grief when I leave and to my surprise neither did Aiden, I was truly a happy momma. All day at work I felt very anxious about leaving the kids at camp, especially Aiden since he is so young but I kept pushing these feelings back and blaming it on my constant worried mom brain.

That evening when I arrived home my husband tells me how frustrated he became at the “Y” over their disorganization. When my husband arrived to pick the children up from camp he was led to the outdoor pool where my daughter was swimming. But when he proceeded to ask about our son, Aiden, no one knew who or where he was, since he was not with the rest of his group swimming in the indoor pool. After a few minutes of different counselors asking each other if anyone knew who and where Aiden was, it was concluded that he possibly was at the Gym. Luckily he was at the gym with a counselor having a great time playing. I proceeded to calm my husband down and told him that this was the first day of camp and that things should be better/organized the next day. For the next two days it all seemed to be less chaotic in the mornings and in the afternoons until Thursday.

Thursday morning came and off we went to summer camp. Everything seemed to running smoothly, the counselors knew my kids by name and all seemed going well. My husband having finals at UCSC was unable to pick the children up that day and I working in Monterey would not be able to get to Salinas before 6pm to pick up the kids. Luckily, my amazing in-laws were kind enough to pick up the children for us and my husband would then pick up the children on his way home.

As a routine when we all get home, we always talk about our day and how it went. Jamie had a great time at the park, she loved swimming and doing underwater cartwheels, but was sad that one of the friends she had made was no longer going to be at camp. My husband and I proceeded to tell her that next time she should give her friends our telephone number so she could stay in touch with them. Then came Aiden’s turn and what he told us, as a parent, is something you never want to hear.

Aiden first words to me were, “Mom something very serious happened to me at camp today, I got lost.” I calmly asked him what he meant. He proceeded with the following, “well today I got lost, but I wasn’t by myself mommy. There were four of us that were lost. You see every one got in line to go swimming and to the gym but I didn’t want to do either, so stayed in my class singing.” As most parents know kids imaginations can do wonders, so I calmly started to ask him some questions, “Aiden are you sure there were no adults there or teenagers. Was there anyone who is about the same age as your cousins?” Since he is only four, his age perception is questionable and since most of his cousins are teenagers this was a way for me to discredit part of his story. In my mind, this could not have happened, how could a summer camp filled with children leave a child behind? Aiden continues, “No mommy is was only four of us, two girls “Sophie” and “Julianne” and a boy named “Galvin and me.” I asked him, “What were you guys doing and where were you guys at?” Aiden responds, “well Sophie and Julianne were playing a game, Galvin was reading The Nemo picture book and I was singing. But then I looked around and noticed there were no adults and we were all alone. So we went on an adventure.” As my heart sinks in disbelief I ask, “So where were you guys and where did you go on your adventure?” He responds with, “We were in that room, you know mommy, the one where you leave us in the morning. Well I know I’m too small to be left alone, I told the kids we had to go on an adventure and look for an adult to help us find our group. So we went to the grass area and went through those two big doors, you know the ones you go through when you leave to work, those ones. We were trying to look for the gym but mommy we can’t read.” He paused to look at me, “mommy its okay I was brave and told the girls that we just needed to ask an adult for help and not to be scared.” Somewhere between disbelief and nausea, I asked him, “So how did you find your group?” He calmly responds, ”There was a man in a black shirt that asked us if we were lost and we told him we were and needed to find the gym. He was taking us to it when one of our Teachers in a green shirt and pony tail took us to our group.” My husband and I were speechless, this took us by surprise, I mean these are stories you hear about but never imagine to hear it from your 4 year old. With a shaky voice between being angry and scared I asked, “Did you tell the teacher what happened?’ He says, “ No because the girls were telling the teacher what happened. I went and played. But mommy I’m okay. I told you I’m a brave boy.” My husband, daughter and I reach over and hug him, we call these hugs “family hugs”, and I cried. I can truly say that I have never been more scared over the fact that something horrible could have happened to all four of these innocent souls.

Right after our conversation with Aiden, I call the YMCA to try to talk to a supervisor. I knew it was long shot, but I had to talk to someone. The receptionist that answered informs me, to no surprise, that there is no supervisor but would like to know what it was regarding so they can relay the message to the right person and be called the following day. To that poor soul that answered the phone, my responds was “you lost my son at summer camp,” there is no easy way to respond to that type of information, but I do have to say you apologized and quickly emailed the supervisor with the problem. Thank you for your true concern and expedient respond. That night was sleepless night, I am not an over religious person, but that night I prayed and thanked the Lord for watching over my son and the other three babies that were with him.

Needless to say my kids were not going to step one foot inside the YMCA doors. I calmly walked into the building and asked to speak to a supervisor and was greeted by Angela. To Angela, thank you thank you for really listening to me and for allowing me to partially break down as I told my sons story. She was in as much disbelief as I was when Aiden was telling me about his adventure. I mean, how does this happen and no one says anything, except a four year old boy. Angela knowing one of the children personally was just as upset as I was. I was told that she would investigate this serious issue and that either her or Elisa, the summer coordinator, would contact and me with more information. The only thing I asked Angela was, to make sure to please let the other parents know what happened because no one should hear it from the little baby. She assured me that a letter normally goes out to parents that are involved detailing the event of the incident.

As I rush to work all I can think about is what could have happened, I know that it is not helpful to think of the, “what ifs” but my brain always does this. Although, I work for a very reasonable doctor I am not always able to answer my cell phone calls, so I had missed the first YMCA call. This is where my frustration in many levels starts to peak. We had been hectic at work so I was not able to call the Y right away. But when I did I was greeted by, I believe his name is Armando, I proceed to inform him that I was returning a phone call but could not make out the persons name on my voicemail but it would most likely be a supervisor. He asked what it was regarding and I tell him that my son was lost in the summer camp. Now, customer service wise the following response would be how not to piss off a person, “Oh that, um hold on let me find out who called you………..okay so my supervisor is really busy right now and can’t talk to you.” I respond to, “Okay well I’m at work right now and can’t answer my cell. So let me give you my work number and have them call me at work please. Thanks.” To the YMCA, Customer Etiquette 101, this should have been responded as, “I am so sorry but my supervisor is unavailable at this moment but can I please take your name and number and I will have them call you back or is this an urgent matter?” This would have been the ideal way to handle a call. To my surprise I get a call on my cell phone with a No Caller ID. I assumed correctly, that this was the Y but again I’m at work and could not pick up my cell phone, which is why I asked for them to call me at work.

Since I work in a veterinary hospital things get very noisy and I was having trouble understanding my voice messages and as luck would have it, my Iphone’s transcription was unavailable to read. But I was able to catch the name Elisa, who I knew was the Summer Camp coordinator. So quickly call the YMCA back and ask for Elisa and am sent to her voicemail where I leave a message. As I anxiously listen to every incoming call from my work line I am noticing that it is getting closer to five so I call again. Again, people, customer etiquette is so important!!!! I ask for Elisa, the lady on the phone proceeds to inform me that she is gone for the day and she will be back by Monday. I proceed to inform her that I need to talk to Elisa right away, so please text or call her but that I need to talk to her TODAY regarding the summer camp losing my son and she replies, “oh yea I heard about that… um okay hold on.” Really, I’m glad that losing children is a hot topic but it could have been handle a bit smoother. One way it could have been said, “Yes I was informed of the situation let me try to get a hold of her, please hold.”

To my surprise Elisa was at her office and so we started our conversation. She proceeded to apologize for the situation and then goes into clarifying some of the scenario. According to Elisa, the man in the black shirt was not a member but a maintenance staff that found the kids. Apparently Elisa and another supervisor noticed the children, from her office window, alone in the courtyard under no adult supervision. Both ladies dash down where they met the kids and proceeded to take the kids back to the gym with their group. She continues to tell me how diligent they were about speaking to the counselor. According to the counselors, their roster did not have the four kids name on it and so the four kids were left behind unaccounted and unnoticed. Elisa proceeds to tell me that she had a meeting with all the counselors about the incident and that the two counselors involved were almost in tears regarding the matter. I am reasonable human being and I can understand that accidents can happen but honestly I do not care how bad these counselors felt.

To these counselors, YOU LOST MY CHILD, MY BABY, MY LITTLE BOY!!!!!! Do you know what could have happened …… let me tell you. Some one could have walked right out of the facility with one or all four kids and not one person would have blinked an eye!!!! My child could have been killed, sexually abused or both. There are emergency exits all over your facility where a person could escape with a child. There are gyms and bathrooms where my child could have had unimaginable things happen. So NO I don’t care that you feel sorry. Let this be a life lesson, you are responsible for the life of these children. Parents, such as my husband and I, have entrusted you with our most precious possession in life, our babies!!!! So you almost tearing up does not make me feel bad because I have cried the tears of the “What Ifs” I never saw my sweet baby Aiden ever again. Elisa shame on you for using this and an equivalent to try to have me sympathize with YOUR NEGLIGENCE.

To add to insult Elisa, when I explained how I was not informed about the situation you proceeded with, “oh I’m so sorry I missed you during pick up. I had every intention to let you know about the incident but it was crazy and I was so busy giving tours that I wasn’t able to talk to you.” Are you serious!!!!!! Parents should have been notified right away about the incident, a phone call to the parents would have been sufficient. But yet, nobody did this. Were you just hoping that the kids were too small to tell their parent’s? So need to notify anyone because they will forget all about it and no one will ever know we just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

How is giving tours of the facility more important than telling parents… you lost their children? Elisa you kept burying yourself by telling me that the kids were only lost for at most 8 minutes. A lot can happen in those few minutes. It still doesn’t justify the event. You then complimented me for being so calm because if it were you, you would not have been so calm. Let me clarify something, I have been a wreck emotionally and mentally. I am angry and terrified that this could happen to another family and that the next time it might have not just been an adventure, as my son called it, but instead the families worst nightmare.

Shame on you YMCA for showing no accountability or creditability until I went in to tell my sons story, MY BRAVE 4 YEAR OLD SON!!!!!

Elisa and Melina, a refund should have been in the works without any questions. To answer your question Melina neither one of my children will step foot at your facility. Yes I expect a refund… seriously it should not only be for the day of the incident. You should refund each parent for the whole stay. I don’t care if services were rendered. Cut your cost and lick your wounds. Let me highlight THE BIGGEST mistakes:

• YOU LOST OUR CHILDREN

• YOU DID NOT INFORM THE PARENTS OF THE INCIDENT

Really …… get it together!!!!! Do not book more children since you seem not to have things under control. Invest in some customer phone etiquette.

To the parents of the other children that were lost I am sorry for using their real names. Honestly, I did not have faith that the Y would have contacted you to tell what happened.

As parents, this event has reassured us of the importance in having an open line of communication. If we had never reinforced our children to share their day events, good or bad, we may have never known what had happened. To every parent out there as a family we have always been huge on talking about our day events and we couldn’t be prouder that my son was able to verbalize what happened but was also able to give such details as names, a time reference of when it happened, how it happened and where.

To all the parents out there that would like to shame me for this rant because your experience with the YMCA has been great. Let me tell you this…. IDGAF!!!!! If this was your child you would have felt the same way, ANGRY, PISSED OFF and I can keep going.

Ingrid & James Abanathie

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